Looking for low-key, clarinet-heavy jazz that will not exacerbate this headache
August 10, 2011 3:40 PM   Subscribe

Can you help me find low-key, clarinet-heavy jazz music?

I've been really enjoying Django Reinhardt's music lately, particularly the clarinet-heavy songs on the Django's Blues album. Previous askmes refer to this as "gypsy jazz," but I'm assuming that has more to do with the style of guitar playing. What are some other albums/artists I might enjoy? I get a similar vibe from the background music in nearly every establishing shot in every Woody Allen movie.

Benny Goodman looks like a safe bet, but I haven't yet found an album of his that grabs me in quite the same way as Django's Blues, so recommendations there would be helpful too. Those less swingy, more big-band-y songs (a thousand horns blaring at once) are definitely not what I'm looking for.

Additional data point(s): I have only a passing interest in jazz, the older the better--I love really old Delta Blues like Mississippi John Hurt. Substituting saxophone for clarinet leaves me pretty cold, and the heavy hitters don't do much for me. Listening to an entire Glenn Miller album, for example, makes my hair fall out in clumps.
posted by AndNeverWell to Media & Arts (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Pee Wee Russell

Jimmy Giuffre (not old-style, but definitely low-key)

Anat Cohen (she does some old-style jazz -- I saw her in concert doing a great tribute to Benny Goodman -- but she also plays in some completely different South American genres)
posted by John Cohen at 3:52 PM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: When you say "the heavy hitters don't do much for [you]", who exactly do you mean. Is Sidney Bechet a "heavy hitter" in your book? (He certainly is in mine...) Although some of his best work was on soprano sax, he was arguably the greatest jazz clarinetist of all time.
posted by dersins at 4:33 PM on August 10, 2011

I never get tired of Zoot Sims, and I think you may like him though he is definitely a heavy hitter. Here are some samples.
posted by bearwife at 4:40 PM on August 10, 2011

P.S. Try You Go To My Head first. The first two samples are a lot less mellow than most of the Sims recordings I have.
posted by bearwife at 4:42 PM on August 10, 2011

I really love Buddy DeFranco, one of the few jazz clarinetists to make the transition to bebop.

Here he is in 1991 playing "Hot Blues" in a large number of keys.
posted by phoebus at 5:22 PM on August 10, 2011

If you like the vibe, you might actually like Woody's own music. You can get the soundtrack to Wild Man Blues on iTunes, and that's him on clarinet. (It's a fascinating documentary, too.)
posted by mauvest at 5:28 PM on August 10, 2011

Oh, if you're looking for albums, you might dig "Cookin' the Books", in which Buddy plays with the John Pizzarelli trio. Lots of standards like "East of the Sun (and West of the Moon)", "Scrapple from the Apple", "What is This Thing Called Love." Also, "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Us", his album with a piano player and a guitarist is easy on the ears, laid back, but still extraordinarily musical. It's full of standards, too.

Those two records are among my favorites.
posted by phoebus at 5:29 PM on August 10, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry, by "heavy hitters," I mean those jazz greats that even a n00b like myself will have heard of: Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller, Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Coltrane, etc.

This is great, thank you--carry on!
posted by AndNeverWell at 6:06 PM on August 10, 2011

Response by poster: dersins, you really nailed the atmosphere I'm looking for with both of those songs. I've got Sidney Bechet on Spotify right now and I'm loving it so far.
posted by AndNeverWell at 6:24 PM on August 10, 2011

Don Byron's Bug Music is his renditions of tunes by Raymond Scott, Duke Ellington, and others. It's all fairly up-tempo stuff, but with a small group, not a big band. Raymond Scott's stuff in particular has a strong drive, so maybe it's not what you want for your headache.
posted by hydrophonic at 6:27 PM on August 10, 2011

Benny Goodman!
posted by TheCoug at 6:52 PM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: dersins, you really nailed the atmosphere I'm looking for with both of those songs

Well, I kinda cheated a little bit-- I mean, cheated in the sense that I cherrypicked two tracks in which Bechet's playing is widely (though far from universally, of course) considered to have set the standard for the respective instruments for, like, the last 70 years.

Anyway, if that's the mood you're going for, you might want to check out Lester Young. Played some clarinet early in his career, but mostly known as a tenor sax player. His music has a similar feel. And Pres gets mad bonus points for a lifelong relationship (professional and personal) with Billie Holliday. And if that strikes your fancy you should watch Robert Altman's Jazz '34, which is basically the music scenes from Kansas City expanded to near-feature length. Fucking fantastic shit.

posted by dersins at 6:57 PM on August 10, 2011

Best answer: Benny Goodman looks like a safe bet, but I haven't yet found an album of his that grabs me

Skip all the big band recordings, and find some of the "small group" sessions. Great stuff.
posted by neroli at 9:42 PM on August 10, 2011

Arne Domnérus.
posted by iviken at 3:34 AM on August 11, 2011

Gabriele Mirabassi
posted by idiomatika at 4:54 PM on August 11, 2011

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