Leblanc or Selmer – Best clarinet for jazz?

pattern_sound writes “So, im looking into getting a new clarinet. i have it mostly down to between a Leblanc Pete Fountain, and a Selmer Signature. I will be playing jazz, alongside some orchestral and new music type stuff. would the Selmer be more versatile, by less jazzy?”

Totally does not matter what kind of clarinet you play. What you should be looking/listening for is what kind of sound you want to get. If the Selmer is the sound you want, go for it. Same for the LeBlanc. Buffet might even be the clarinet for you.

27 thoughts on “Leblanc or Selmer – Best clarinet for jazz?”

  1. Well… here’s my thought:

    I agree with ericdano. Buy what you think make you sound like you – or gives you the sound that you want most. At a professional level, you should have the tools within you as a musician to adjust intonation, project, etc. The clarinet can only do so much for you. If it feels good to the touch, fits your price range, and is made of something that can produce a clear clarinet sound… then go for it, no matter what the brand is. A Pete Fountain’s bore is big. Big=less projection… phatter close range sound. Is that what you want? I play a buffet R-13 for all of my jazz AND classical gigs, and it serves me. People often associate a jazz sound with one that is spread and less focused… but if you listen to Eddie Daniels (in my opinion the best jazz clarinetist around) he plays with a crisp clear classical sound, ALWAYS. Also, he does this on a LeBlanc Conerto II… not exactly a jazz horn. It’s what YOU want… don’t go by what should or shouldn’t be a jazz horn. Benny Goodman? Buffet. Buddy? Buffet. I don’t know a great jazz player that played (or plays) a selmer… but that’s your call. Michael Rusinek of the pittsburgh symphony is the best selmer artist I know… and he’s ALL classical. Do what you gotta do – I’d say go with an R-13… it’s the most focused and in-tune (with least adjustment) horn on the market.

    1. Buddy? You mean Buddy DeFranco? He never played on Buffet. He was a Leblanc guy and after a Yamaha artist.
      Tony Scott was the Selmer jazzclarinetist

    2. During the swing era Benny Goodman actually preferred selmer for the way the sound cut through. He later switched to buffet when he started playing more classical music.

  2. Hope you are getting a good commission from Buffet, Mr Bordnfool: My album covers show Benny Goodman holding a Selmer (not a Buffet) and de Franco at one time played Leblanc (they used to use him in their advertising).

    I think the mouthpiece is more critical. A mouthpiece with an open lay (facing) will give more flexibility and ability to bend notes than a standard classical mouthpiece. Give some 3rd party ‘jazz’ mouthpieces a try and see how they play e.g. Bari Buddy de Franco mouthpiece, JodyJazz mouthpiece etc. You might end up keeping your current clarinet…

  3. Neil,
    Buffet isn’t paying me anything, I just know what I like. To be honest, I wish that Buffet were paying me! In regards to your post about the players sure, people change horns. Currently, Buddy plays a Yamaha, and did for his later recordings. I just saw him play recently… and was at the Yamaha booth for a while at the IAJE conference in New York city. Paquito doesn’t play a Buffet – and he’s also a killin’ player. Which comes back to the point I made about it is of little matter what horn you play. You’re going to sound like you no matter what you play… and like all of these guys that play different horns – you can make money on any one of them… and sound great. If you really want to get into sound production – lets talk about the inside of your nasal passages and throat! On equipment however, I feel most strongly about the reed that you’re using. I can make a good amount of mouthpiececs sounds good with a perfect reed – just as I can sound like garbage on a great mouthpiece if the reed is crappy. …I mean, we could go on like this for a while. Pick something that you like the feel of, and enjoy your sound on. As long as your happy that’s worth the most.

  4. Actually, everything I have ever seen about Benny Goodman says he played Selmers. In one of the books, he is quoted talking about going to Paris and buying new Selmer clarinets for his friends back in the states for $25 each. And, he was the “poster boy” for the Selmer Centered Tone model of the mid-50’s. Having said that, I play a mid-50’s Leblanc Classic most of the time, but I have an old metal “Gladiator” that probably came from “Monkey Ward” and believe it or not, it plays beautifully! I think most young (and many old) players put too much stock in what kind of horn they play when really all they need to do is suck it up and practice! A good player can play well on just about anything. Last time I saw Woody Herman, a kid came out and put his horns together on the band stand, reeds and all. 30 to 45 minutes later, Woody grabs one and out pops the great music! Getting one’s ears in shape is probably the most important thing about playing any instrument. . .

  5. Well, may be he is not so well known the other side of the ocean, but Michel Portal is playing Selmer all the time, and he is our most respected clarinet jazz player here in France..
    Regards to all colleagus.

  6. Hi! Just read your comment on Buffet being THE jazz clarinet. I remember seeing a very nice documentary about Artie Shaw. He said that he always used a Selmer except when he made the private 5tet recordings where he used a Buffet (very closely miked – so he said). Maybe with that you can add one Selmer player to your list!?

  7. I personally use an R 13 for both jazz and classical, but again, that’s just me. I own an old Selmer Center Tone (Benny Goodman’s clarinet model) simply for historical purposes. It’s the indian, not the arrow. As for artists, both Goodman and Shaw switched between Selmer and Buffet.

    My teacher once told me a story about Eddie Daniels. He was doing a gig, and afterward, he came up to him, and asked him what clarinet he was REALLY playing on. He said his R 13, not his Leblanc endorsed Concerto.

    However, he must be pretty confident enough on his Leblanc Concerto to play it at every major recording.

    One more story…

    The great jazz clarinetist Sidney Bechet would often go to a local pawn shop, but the cheapest clarinet, and play on it at his next gig.

    Moral. Get something that works for you, stick with it, and practice.

  8. I think that you could use any horn. I personally think that Leblanc has the best horn, but then again my preference. I think that L’s tune better than Buffet’s.Well anyway the second part is your mouthpiece that is left up to you. I like Grabner mp’s but again, whatever floats your boat.

  9. Hi: Any selmer “Radio Improved: clarinets for sale? I marvel those jazz clarinetists like Barnet Bagart,Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet,Jimmy Noone,all, who played Selmer :RI”. Clarinetist,Edmond Hall was into playing a Karl Hammerschmidt clarinet. Must be hard to find one of those! In today’s world, there is a Frank Hammerschmidt clarinet. Anyone out there who pays jazz with a Frank Hammerschmidt,besides jazz clarinetist,Evan Christopher?

    1. Hi

      I am Lasse from Swden and I play a Frank Hammerschmidt Cocobolo-clarinet.It haas a big sweet sound and it projects really well. I use a 5JB-mouthpiece with Legere 31/2 reeds.

  10. Wow I love how these things get off topic, Answer his question between the 2 clarinets geeze

    And so, you point is? Perhaps he didn’t know all the other choices available? He wanted to play classical and jazz. Why not give him information about all the other possibilities out there.

    Also, he narrowed it down to two rather uncommon clarinets. I’ve never seen a Pete Fountain clarinet in the flesh, and the Selmer Signature clarinet, which I have seen since this post first appeared, is nothing to write home about. It holds its own, but I think it would have more appeal in the jazz area than classical. It seemed to have more of a jazzie sound when I played it.

  11. I bout my Buffet Crampon Clarinet in the year 1973 and I am still satisfied with it. I first played classic clarinet and since a few years I play jazz. All the best wishes Rainer

  12. Kind of sad. I’m not a player. I made Leblanc clarinets for 20 years. I loved my job and was proud of the product I helped produce. Conn-Selmer bought us and 3 years later shut us down and moved all operations to their Indiana facility (Leblanc was located in Kenosha, WI). I guess all I’m trying to say is I hope the people that still make clarinets under the name that I WAS so proud of still produce them with the integrity that we did and I also hope they are keeping YOU THE PLAYER in mind.

  13. For what it is worth as someone mentioned earlier – reed and mouthpiece are more important. I play mainly Jazz but also have performed classical.
    I owned a pair of Leblanc full Boehm back in early 60s – wish I still had them now, my memory is they were wonderful.
    I now have a pair of Buffet ‘Prestige’ claris [3/4 Boehm] – good thing is the extra Eb lever key on LH cluster.
    THE BEST reeds by miles and kilometers are Reeds Australia – I use the top of range and virtually every one in the box works well and out lasts any other brand.

  14. Artie Shaw played a Conn 444N large bore model. But it’s the Indian, not the arrow, as Ted Williams put it so well. Some people are better with Buffet or Yamaha. Personally, I prefer Conn or Selmer.

  15. Believe it or not, I own two Pete Fountain Leblanc clarinets, two Buffet R-13s and a Leblanc Concerto II. They are all great clarinets in various respects. I really believe that if you play classical AND jazz, the Buffet or Concerto is the way to go. Unless, you want to switch back and forth. I’ve found that the Pete Fountain model is not the best for playing classical. It’s great for Dixieland. Between the Buffet and Concerto, the Buffet has the bigger sound. The Concerto could be considered to have a smoother sound throughout all registers. Also, I prefer the key work on the Concerto; it feels smoother. The Buffet has been and continues to be highly regarded by classical clarinetists everywhere. The Buffet would be a very excellent choice.

  16. My advice would be to try as many instruments as possible. Most reputable music stores are more than happy to let you try out various instruments. If you’re looking for a distinct sound, I found what I was looking for in my Selmer Recital which is made of heavier grenadilla wood and has a narrow 14.35mm bore. Warm, focussed but stropng sound that’s not easily dominated by the saxes.
    Good luck.
    Geoffrey

  17. I play an 80+ year old Jerome Thibouville-Lamy clarinet for everything, because for me it’s the best sounding and best handling instrument I’ve come across. Vandoren B45 and Legere 3.5’s.

  18. Hey just thought I’d throw this out the but Selmer Signant. Its about 50-60 years old its got a good sound good price about 350-450 and its a classic. Also its gunna be hard to find sorry:P. Vandoren B45 Vandoren 3 1/2 and Selmer Signant. Also I play Brass, Jazz, and some concert so all around a good horn.

  19. Hi I think I have an RI selmer paris clarinet. My father left it to me. I think the serial no is L1101. It has not been used in years but looks pretty good. I might sell or at least more info about this clarinet. John

  20. Loved Everyone’s comments.

    Artie Shaw…
    According to Shaw, when he was younger and playing in large dance halls- He used a Selmer, claiming that it had, in his opinion, more “Shout.” To aid the shout, he employed the Altisimo register when needed, of which he became a real master.

    Late on, when playing a lot of the tunes in his final recordings with the Gramercy 5, he was using a Buffet R13.

    When his estate went up for auction, there were a couple of clarinets available, not sure, how many, but a Buffet was prominently in the mix. He felt that the buffet was an excellent horn.

    There was also an Alto Selmer Sax – this went to Dick Johnson, who was the clarinet on the Artie Shaw Band that Artie often conducted.

    Regards to all,

    Jim

    I own a Selmer CenteredTone – I think you have to work pretty hard to get it to do what you want.

  21. Loved Everyone’s comments.

    Artie Shaw…
    According to Shaw, when he was younger and playing in large dance halls- He used a Selmer, claiming that it had, in his opinion, more “Shout.” To aid the the clarinet to soar above the brass, he employed the Altisimo register when needed, of which he became a real master.

    Late on, when playing a lot of the tunes in his final recordings with the Gramercy 5, he was using a Buffet R13.

    When his estate went up for auction, there were a couple of clarinets available, not sure, how many, but a Buffet was prominently in the mix. He felt that the buffet was an excellent horn.

    There was also an Alto Selmer Sax – this went to Dick Johnson, who was the clarinet on the Artie Shaw Band that Artie often conducted.

    Regards to all,

    Jim

    I own a Selmer CenteredTone – I think you have to work pretty hard to get it to do what you want.

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