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MP3 Joseph Howell - Jazz Clarinet Now

"This is the most impressive debut by a jazz clarinetist in decades"--Scott Yanow, world-famous jazz writer.

10 MP3 Songs in this album (52:38) !
Related styles: JAZZ: Contemporary Jazz, JAZZ: Post-Bop

People who are interested in Buddy DeFranco Eddie Daniels Don Byron should consider this download.


Joseph Howell is the most original and prominent new clarinetist to emerge during the past decade. While his instrument has declined in importance since the end of the Swing era, long being associated with Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Dixieland, Joseph’s fresh and innovative approach has the potential to launch a renaissance for the clarinet. At a minimum, his playing will result in a very significant career, as one can hear on his debut recording, Jazz Clarinet Now.

Born and raised in Porterville, California, Joseph Howell began playing clarinet in fourth grade. “I was actually not into music until I was in junior high and went to Disneyland with my family. I heard a Dixieland band and I really loved it. The first record that I got, which I dubbed from a library, was a sampler called Jive At Five. It had tracks by Sidney Bechet, Johnny Dodds, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman.” Mentored by veteran New Orleans clarinetist George Probert who sent him cassettes of a wide variety of clarinettists, Joseph first explored all of the vintage reed players before discovering the more modern players in high school. “By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had heard everyone from Eric Dolphy to Omer Simeon. Edmond Hall is one of my favorites. By high school, I wanted to play more modern, and I added the saxophone and flute. Eddie Daniels and Buddy DeFranco were influences on my clarinet sound although I also love Tony Scott.” Largely self-taught prior to college, Joseph mastered the fundamentals of classical clarinet technique and developed his own open-minded style, playing gigs in coffee shops and restaurants while a teenager.

Joseph Howell earned a Bachelors of Music Degree from CSU Northridge, studying classical clarinet with Julia Heinen and jazz improvisation with Rob Lockart, Matt Harris, and Gary Pratt. He has since earned a Masters of Music Degree from San Diego State University where he studied classical clarinet with Marian Liebowitz, jazz and classical flute with Lori Bell, the saxophone with John Rekevics, and jazz improvisation with Rick Helzer. Rick Helzer was so impressed with Joseph’s playing that he featured him as a guest on his Nine Winds recording, Face In The Mirror. Joseph has also studied with Evan Christopher, Abe Most, and Ken Peplowski. At this writing, he is nearly completed with earning a doctorate in Jazz Performance from the New England Conservatory of Music (studying with Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, classical clarinet with Bill Wrzesien and jazz drums with John Hazilla), has taught undergrad theory courses, and lectured about the clarinet, working towards having a dual career as a performer and a professor. ““I very much like the idea of passing on the torch. I’ve given jazz boot camps to young musicians where they can learn what it is they are actually playing, and be inspired to listen to more than just one kind of jazz.”

Jazz Clarinet Now is Joseph Howell’s very impressive debut recording as a leader. “I like the idea of putting on both shows and CDs that are eclectic enough to have surprises and even humorous shock value. I love how on the CD ‘The Pot Melts’ is radically different from ‘Mood Piece.’” Joined by pianist Alex Brown (who regularly plays with Paquito D’Rivera), bassist Tal Gamlieli and drummer Matt Rousseau, Howell says that “in sidemen, I look for musicians who have a lot of variety in their playing, who can play in or out, and have flexible personalities.” His sidemen certainly have those qualities for they essay the clarinetist’s ten diverse originals with apparent ease.

Jazz Clarinet Now begins with “Which Way,” which Joseph describes as “almost sounding like traffic chaos since the clarinet and the piano play lots of twitchy rhythms together. My goal was to make up a song that is very notey but still sounds like a melody.” “Which Way” features both unisons that sound nearly impossible to play and swinging ensembles. While the ballad “Mood Piece” is essentially a color that sets up an atmosphere, “The Pot Melts” mixes together the influences of both the rap band The Roots and Charles Ives in a colorful fashion.

Switching to tenor, Joseph pays tribute to Jerry Bergonzi (with whom he studied at NEC) on “Bergonzesque.” The angular and unpredictable piece uses a nine-note augmented scale that Bergonzi often utilizes plus the slightly-disguised chord changes of “Stella By Starlight.” “Blues For A Sicilian Friend,” an infectious blues, is a tribute to clarinetist Tony Scott and was inspired by Scott’s “Blues For An African Friend.” “Looking Back” is a melancholy ballad that features Joseph’s flute while “Without Reason” gives him an opportunity to improvise freely on clarinet. “This tune’s title mocks the idea of taking everything so seriously and feeling that there is always a great reason for everything that occurs.” “Siwwy Babbit,” which is dedicated to composer Milton Babbit’s sense of humor, is a serial piece that also manages to be somewhat melodic. Jazz Clarinet Now closes with the thoughtful Ellingtonian ballad “The Phone Call” and “A Line Of Mine” which is partly based on a jammed chorus by Howell on “Come Rain Or Come Shine.”

“There is a lot of variety and humor on the CD, and plenty of contrasts between songs,” says Joseph. The same can be said for Joseph Howell’s playing in general. Few other clarinettists are so comfortable with the very different styles of Sidney Bechet, Artie Shaw, Buddy DeFranco, Eddie Daniels and Don Byron while playing like himself rather than merely emulating his predecessors.

Whether it is jazz, classical, studio work or being an inspiration and mentor to younger players, Joseph Howell is clearly in the early stages of a very important career.

-Scott Yanow (Author of ten jazz books including The Jazz Singers, Bebop, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film)


"...A brilliant virtuoso whose complete control over the clarinet and originality as both an improviser and a composer are very impressive...This is the most impressive debut by a jazz clarinettist in decades. One waits with anticipation to see what Joseph comes up with next!"---Scott Yanow (Author of ten jazz books including The Jazz Singers, Bebop, Jazz On Record 1917-76 and Jazz On Film), from my Liner Notes.

"You are a fine musician and handle your instruments as good or better than anyone I''ve heard"---Buddy DeFranco (jazz clarinet legend).

“Joseph Howell is an astounding jazz clarinetist — a virtuoso with complete command of the instrument, a historian who knows the work of his predecessors inside and out, and a creative, original improviser who sounds like no one else. I expect that he will be one of the most important players of his generation in extending the role of the clarinet in modern jazz.”---Allan Chase (Berklee College of Music: Chair of Ear Training Department; New England Conservatory: Professor in Jazz Studies, Music History and Musicology; Jazz Saxophone Performing Artist).

2 Reviews of a Live Performance of the CD Repertoire(3-13-08):

(1) "...It was dazzling, as I might have expected. The array of pieces and styles was impressive, and represented a considerable amount of carefully-absorbed influence from contemporary classical music...His own playing was not just virtuosic. It was also capable of restraint and simplicity. At times he reached for the extremes of his technique--range especially. In the end, impressive as it was, it was not just showy, but left listeners with an impression of considerable depth: historical savvy, intellectual underpinning, an equilibrium between compositional structure and improvisational chops, and balance among the ensemble players. I can''t imagine anyone hearing this and not being impressed with his range and command. His quirkiness and eccentricity is also completely evident, but in the context, it adds a necessary bit of humor and warmth to an event which otherwise might have been more easily taken as a showcase"---Robert Labaree, Chair: Music History Department, NEC.

(2) "...Both the compositions and the performances were extraordinary, especially in the diversity of styles represented in the program...Your tone and tuning is perfectly consistent from the lowest to the highest registers and your sound is beautiful, even when playing in the stratosphere. The drum and clarinet duet in “Without Reason” was amazing; I loved this tune. But “Phone Call” was by far my favorite number in the program. The change in tone color was striking; a very moving piece. Thank you for a memorable experience"---Tom Handel: Dean of Students, Professor of Musicology, Co-Director of the DMA Program, NEC.

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