Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Coming Soon: Eric Seddon's Hot Club on CD -- 'Bootlegs from the Bop Stop'

Three years ago tonight, Eric Seddon's Hot Club played its very first gig--at the Wine Spot on Lee Road in Cleveland Hts, as part of ChamberFest Cleveland's Uncorked series. Since then we've become a fixture of the Northeast Ohio Trad Jazz scene, regularly playing such venues as the Bop Stop, BLU Jazz +, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Tri-C JazzFest, the British American Club, and the Music Box Supper Club, among others.
Today, on this third anniversary, we're happy to announce that our first CD, 'Bootlegs from the Bop Stop' will soon be available for purchase. It features four traditional spirituals and six originals by Eric -- all of them single take performances from last Fall's six concert 'Trad Jazz Invasion' of the Bop Stop.
The idea for the album came about when, a few months after the shows, Eric stumbled across some iPhone 'bootlegs' taken by his wife and was surprised by how good and 'real' the sound was. Combining them with some recordings made by Bill Laufer of Laufer Film, he realized that, if they were all mastered, there was enough material for a live album capturing some of the vitality of those concerts.
Stay tuned for more updates regarding CD release parties, etc!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Choruses on 'A Smooth One'

The turnout and enthusiasm of the crowds for our series at BLU Jazz + in Akron continue to inspire and impress. Here are a couple of my choruses on the Benny Goodman classic "A Smooth One" from last Saturday night...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Benny Goodman and George Lewis * Tonight at BLU Jazz +

Tonight my band and I continue our survey of historical jazz clarinet composers "From Bechet to Today" taking on the legacies and contributions of two very different, yet nearly equally influential artists: Benny Goodman and George Lewis.

Now stylistically speaking, despite his vast influence over many players, I don't really solo like Benny. I love his playing and his originals, though, which are really very interesting proto-modern numbers that give a soloist plenty of room to stretch. Here's a chorus of mine on my very favorite Goodman composition, "A Smooth One" from last fall at The Bop Stop in Cleveland. We'll feature this tune again tonight...

The second half of the program will feature originals and spirituals associated with George Lewis, the great New Orleans trad clarinetist whose band set off New Orleans revivals globally in the 1950s and '60s. Included tonight will be his original numbers 'St Philip's Street Breakdown' and 'Burgundy Street Blues'. Here's my band playing the traditional spiritual 'Go Down Moses' on a concert of ours last fall. We'l play this again tonight.


Uniting all of these elements of style and influence, I'll be performing some originals as well (as we do on all of our programs). Tonight we'll lead off with a tune I wrote last year, and which has become quite popular with local audiences: 'Jeremiah Blues'...

We hope to see some of you in Akron tonight at one of DownBeat magazine's top rated jazz clubs in the world: BLU Jazz +. For our international readers, perhaps I can bring my music closer to you someday!

Keep swinging!


Friday, March 2, 2018

On Sound

[ Originally published on my Facebook Artist page]

 As a musician, I find that when people talk about me--whether in private or even on the bandstand addressing an audience--the thing they mention invariably, and almost always first, is my unique sound. When I was a youth, my sound separated me from other kids in a good way--it was the driving force that got me noticed, won auditions, and gave me the chance to play in both jazz bands and symphony orchestras. In college, my professors generally were excited to work with me, but considered my sound controversial, and always tried to make me more conventional, to fit a mainstreamed type of idea. As a professional, I've always developed my tone along the lines I felt it needed to be expressively, even resorting to vintage instruments long out of production to achieve my voice.

This approach, while not exactly mainstream, has paid off, in that these days I think most musicians who know and hear me understand why I've made the decisions I have...and the reaction of people who are moved to tell me how my sound has effected them is deeply gratifying. So I figure my first real post here should be about that thing most associated with me: my sound.

I've always taken sound itself to be the soul of playing. Your distinct sound is your calling card, your identity. But that sound is always in motion, in context. Many players suffer under the concept of an 'ideal' sound, as though an instrument's sound could exist in a vacuum--and this is true whether you are a jazz musician or a classical musician (or any other kind of musician). I've known tenor sax players who wrecked themselves trying to sound like Trane, and classical clarinetists who did the same with whatever great player they admired. Exacerbating this can be a culture of teaching 'proper' sound on an instrument, which while in some circumstances can be justified, is not necessarily the healthiest way to look at things.

The truth is that sound, like a human being, is constantly relational, and also like human beings, no two sound exactly alike--unless we're talking about a very low level of artistry. So instead of searching for an 'ideal' sound, I like to encourage people to become sound collectors--to give the magpie or mockingbird instinct some freedom. Instead of enjoying only a few artists close to your ideal, find the beauty and soul in players you wouldn't ever play like yourself. [post continues below photo...]

detail of Reform Boehm Clarinets c1951 by Fritz Wurlitzer

For a brief time in my career, I was employed as an artist representative and coach for Wurlitzer Clarinets America. My job was to demonstrate and teach the wide variety of tones a clarinetist could achieve on Wurlitzer Reform-Boehms. At the time, there was a dominant myth (in America at least) that German clarinets only yielded one sound...so to counteract that I would show off my mockingbird skills by playing like Johnny Dodds, Benny Goodman, Pete Fountain, Sidney Bechet, or Edmond Hall on a Wurlitzer. Of course I'd never sound exactly like those great players, who are each inimitable--but similar enough to demonstrate the range of colors one could get. It was also fantastic training--in those years I developed a palette of sound from gruff and dirty to smooth and clear. That period of my playing career was one of the most thrilling because it was like real field work, collecting and making discoveries every day. Since then, I've tried to encourage others who were frustrated with their sounds to do the same. Instead of always refining, refining, refining towards some 'ideal' concept that never arrives, but tightens a noose around your playing, open up--experiment with anything and everything. Become a collector of odd sounds, and a virtuoso mockingbird. All of those will eventually feed your own art, when you decide to direct those things towards a singular expression.

Beyond that, always remember the search for a personal, expressive, artistically satisfying sound is a lifetime's journey, and is actually related to how we view other people, how we interact, whether we become dismissive and prideful about what we do, or whether we're looking to share something beyond the notes or our technical proficiency. The ultimate goal: to let our souls sing. Bless you on your journey.