All posts by Luca Luciano

I am a Italian clarinettist/composer based in London and clarinet professor (at the Leeds College of Music, UK’s largest conservatoire). My academic research focuses extended techniques for the contemporary repertoire and new music for clarinet solo also presented at master-classes and educational events (in the UK, Brazil, Italy) and premiered at St Martin in the Fields in London and the Bristol Cathedral. I am active as soloist/composer, touring extensively the UK and overseas and in the past few years I have been focusing primarily on my own music releasing three solo albums.

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Eddie Daniels’s Solo on “Air Mail Special”

One of the most appreciated clarinettists in the world performs one of Benny Goodman’s favourites. The track is in fact taken from the album “Benny Rides Again”  in collaboration with Gary Burton as a keen homage to Benny Goodman and Lionel Hampton.

This solo for advanced players and you’ll find below a brief analysis:

  • The key in which the composition is performed is different from the one you may find in some Real Books: it’s in “D” in spite of “C”.
  • Note how the use of the “glissato” is definitely almost absent (compared to swing clarinettist of the past) and replaced, in some cases, by the chromatic scale.
  • For most of its extension the solo stays within an octave and a half hardly going under the “B” on the third line. This is one of the main issues encountered on clarinet solos on up-tempos or in situations where the instrument is somehow “weakened” or out-powered the other players (e.g. in big bands). Therefore the chance to explore and value the dark sounds is limited forcing the player to a brighter and louder part of the clarinet which may turn up to be, in the long run, counterproductive.
  • The chord sequence of this track is a kind of “rhythm change” in the “A Section” where “D” is mainly meant as “D7”, and then the original chords are played on the “B Section”.
  • Daniels’ approach to the solo is mainly diatonic except for the “B section” of the first chorus where he uses chromatic passages and for bars 10-13 where the chords |D7  Ebmaj | G7 | Cmin7 Gmaj7 | D D7 | are superimposed by the melodist.  
  • Note how he begins and ends the solo using the pentatonic scale on the main key.
  • Note how he plays the “F” mixolydian scale at the end of the first eight bars which ends up on the flat 9th of the chord in bar n.10 (D7).
  • Note how he “sticks” by the diminished arpeggio in bars 17-20.
  • Note how he emphasizes the minor third (blue note) during the last eight bars of the first chorus.
  • Bars 33-36 may be meant as | D | Cmin7 | E7 A7|.
  • He emphasizes even more the Blues Scale in bars 46-49.
  • Again extremely stuck on the diminished arpeggio in bars 50-52.
  • Note how he emphasizes the major seventh on the dim7 chords in bars 53-58.

NB: The score is for “Bb” instruments.

Audio File
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“At the Woodchopper’s ball” (solo by Woody Herman)

This solo is based on a Blues (in “D”), a basic form very important for the musical development of any jazz musician and, moreover, is for intermediate players thus approachable by the majority of those interested.

Some considerations about this solo are listed below:

  • Note how each chorus begins with a melodic line that lasts four bars and it’s repeated the next four bars. This is a typical approach to the blues. Some would play the same line for the whole extension of the chorus (generally twelve bars).
     
  • The way he approaches the second chorus resembles a lot the style of the saxophonist Johnny Hodges.
     
  • The “glissato” as a main clarinet feature (thanks to its acoustic characteristics) and a technique sometimes overused by a whole generation of clarinettists of the past or with styles influenced by Dixieland, New Orleans, 40s swing, etc. Lots of “contemporary” clarinet-players tend to avoid this overuse trying to have a wiser use of it.
     
  • Besides a minimum use of ghost-notes, there is a very little use of certain kind of dissonances indeed (altered fifth or ninth, etc.) except for some chromatic passages at the end of the solo or for the 5th and 6th bar of the second chorus where we encounter a sharp-fourth caused by the repetition of a pattern which comes form the beginning of the chorus and is set in “D” major.
     
  • Note the complete absence of the so-called Blues Scale. We encounter a minor third (blue note) at the end of the solo caused by a small pattern where there is the repetition of an ascending half-tone.

NB: The score is meant to be for “Bb” instruments

Audio File (MP3)