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BILL NEWMAN talks to British clarinettist


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When you perform lighter repertoire like jazz, such as the Three Gershwin Preludes, does this alter your whole approach or do you assume another hat by coming off the serious pedastal for a little bit of make-believe. 'Yes, I suppose so because the sentiment is less profound than in, say, the two Brahms Sonatas'. Yet, it is just as hard to master. 'Yes, I did some Benny Goodman transcriptions in recital at the end of May which was very popular, but I have had to listen to him a lot, including some of his recordings, to try and analyse what he does with different notes, his vibrato and growling, sometimes!' The Trio, Quartet and Sextet sessions are all gems. 'I agree - I think I can take some of the improvisations and re-enact them'. Goodman, Woody Herman, Artie Shaw all had their individual sounds, but when Benny recorded the Mozart Concerto he found it uncomfortable and went to Frederick Thurston for tips and advice. 'Yes he doesn't sound at ease but he did wonderful things for classical clarinet like the Copland Concerto'.

Is it easier for a classically trained artist to transfer over to jazz, rather than the other way round? 'Jazz players would say not, stating that when the classical player switches over he doesn't sound quite jazzy enough. I have known John Dankworth and Cleo Laine some years and feel quite at home taking part in their concerts sometimes, but my true instincts are with classical music - in the end it is more profound. But that doesn't mean that there isn't a good case for light music'. In your overall professional acceptance by audiences, don't you have to let your hair down every so often? 'Yes, I think so. Why not!! - the clarinet does it so well. When I was first launched on the profession it was frowned upon, my agent at the time saying "I do hope you are not going to do a James Galway type of thing?! You'll find it impossible for you to be accepted by the music establishment". Which was true, then. Radio 3 also seemed to frown on anybody who appeared to be popularizing their image'. BBC Radio 3 still haven't got it right now, and with the emergence of Classic fm... 'The change has been enormous. Now it's perfectly acceptable to do both, and that's great because one feeds off the other'.

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Copyright © 25 July 2000 Bill Newman, Edgware, UK





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