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 Re: Jazz Clarinet
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-08-25 23:05

Markos,

In response to your question of what has become of Alvin Batiste's writings and compositions, a few of them are in the Southern University John Cade Library in Baton Rouge, where he used to teach. The NOCCA library in New Orleans has ten of his recordings but, alas, none of his writings or music. Greg Agid, who studied clarinet with Batiste both at the Louis Armstrong "Satchmo" Summer Jazz Camp (on the grounds of the Old Mint on Esplanade Blvd) and at NOCCA, believes that Batiste may have taught as many as 300 musicians, some of them clarinetists. This would include Bradford Marsalis who does (or did) play clarinet as well as saxophone and was a member of the Southern University Jazz Band that Batiste directed. If you have a copy of improvisation studies that he wrote, hang on to it; I don't see those around any more! Some ambitious grad student looking for a research topic should undertake to survey all the music and study books that Batiste wrote (along with a complete discography) before they are irretrievably scattered to the winds.

Batiste did a program for NPR with pianist Billy Taylor that is remarkable. Batiste recounts how he learned jazz clarinet from Jimmy Hamilton and worked his way back to listening to Johnny Dodds, Big Eye Louis Nelson, and especially Sidney Bechet. He was impressed by Sony Stitt's ability on alto sax to play melodies directly crafted from the underlying harmonic structure of a song. Batiste developed this idea in some of his writings and worked with it in some tapes that the Harvard University Library Archives has called "Alvin Batiste and the Harvard Jazz Band: The Root Progression Process." Local radio station WWOZ certainly has some tapes of Batiste not available elsewhere.

Gregory Agid (who also studied clarinet with John Reeks of the LA Philharmonic and Eddie Daniels) is playing his next gig at Maison, 508 Frenchmen St, New Orleans, this Tuesday, Aug 29, if flood waters do not prevent him. He regularly performs at Snug Harbor as well.

The best link I can find to the Billy Taylor program with Batiste is this one which is marked "not secure," but I looked at it anyway.

https://npr.org/programs/btaylor/pastprograms/abatiste.html.

All this leads to a question for you. Do you think that any post-swing clarinetist improvises directly out of chord progressions as well as Sonny Stitt did on sax? Clarinetists seem disposed to "noodle" when they should be making melodic phrases or counterpoint over the changes. I heard Stitt many times live and on recordings, and never once did I hear him do anything like sax noodling. He was always shaping phrases whether they were banal or (more usually) brilliant. Does any modern clarinetist improvise meaningful phrases over changes as well as Paul Desmond ( to choose a player in some ways at the opposite end from Stitt) when Desmond was at his best? If yes, who? If no, why not?

I first thought about this when I read a review by Cannonball Adderley of a Tony Scott performance (maybe in a blindfold test?) Adderley said that people often accuse him (Adderley) of not developing the motives implicit in his improvisations, which he thought was not true. But he did note that Tony Scott completely failed to develop much in the performance he was listening to. As I recall, Adderley did not indite clarinetists in general because he was a fan of Artie Shaw's and thought (correctly) that Shaw developed all the elements inherent in the harmony and melodic line of "Stardust" in that famous recording. Shaw's solo there will stand comparison with anything Stitt or Desmond did in its structural integrity and musical interest. The same can be said, I think, for Bechet's on "Blue Horizon." He is far from noodling; he is speaking musical statements with authority. He is "laying down the law." (Think Beethoven, Mozart, Bach). So what about later jazz clarinetists?



Post Edited (2017-08-25 23:59)

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