Conversations in the Language of Jazz
Harry Skoler - Clarinet, Tenor and Alto Saxophone, Flute, Piano Ed Saindon - Vibraphone, Piano Roger Kimball - Bass Tim Gilmore - Drums Liner Notes Harry Skoler, born in Syracuse, N.Y in 1956, first heard Benny Goodman's solos played by his teacher Douglas Soyars during a clarinet lesson in 1971. ln Professor Soyar's attempt to introduce Harry to the language of jazz, an old transcription of Goodman's solo from the tune 'Grand Slam' was assigned for study. Mostly to appease Soyars, the transcription was practiced, and played at the next lesson in the style of a classical piece (the only style Harry was familiar with). Soyars proceeded to take the clarinet from Harry's hands, and wailed through the transcribed solo like a hot knife through butter. Ears singed from this spiritual awakening, Harry ran to pick up his first Goodman record. After repeated listenings, he told his family that evening that he aspired to be a jazz clarinetist. Twenty four years have passed since that day in the small basement studio where those first licks introduced Harry to the language of jazz. Schools were attended, careers changed, cities moved to and from, and the addition of saxophone, flute, and piano to his arsenal of voices. However, the voice of the clarinet is still the deepest voice in his heart. Harry graduated from Berklee College of Music in 1978, having studied with Joe Viola, Andy McGhee, and Greg Badolato. During a three year period in Nashville, Tennessee, he performed with his jazz groups, taught privately, and played in the studio for the first time. Ln 1982, he became intrigued with architecture, and decided to study at Syracuse University. Although studying architecture proved interesting and challenging, Harry began to escape from the late night design sessions and participate in local jam sessions. A year later, music was once again the sole pursuit of his life, and with renewed commitment to becoming a jazz musician, he enrolled at New England Conservatory. Here he studied clarinet, saxophone, flute, and composition with the legendary Jimmy Giuffre, and began performing with jazz groups throughout New England. Harry graduated in 1986 with a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies. In addition to his quartet, he performs with Adventures With Jazz, educating young people in the language of jazz throughout New England. He has performed with the casts of 'Ain't Misbehavin' and 'Nunsense', ' and has recorded for television and numerous other projects. His jazz quartet illuminates Harry's passion for the clarinet, 'conversing' with vibraphone, bass and drums. The quartet additionally features Harry on saxophone, flute, and piano, and performs both original music as well as music from the Great American Songbook, and of course. . . The music of Benny Goodman (played and arranged with the quartet's distinct approach). The clarinet tends to be more a footnote than a specialty for most players of reed instruments on today's jazz scene. Harry Skoler understands it's endangered species status in jazz and in his own expressive way is working to reverse it. 'The clarinet is a very difficult instrument to stick with in a group, ' he explains. 'People can step all over it.' That doesn't happen in Skoler's New England based quartet, where the clarinet is his axe of preference though he sometimes doubles on the saxophones, flute and piano. While building his group and finding his sound over the past half dozen years, a special affinity developed between Skoler's clarinetics and the vibraphone playing of Boston jazz veteran Ed Saindon. Like the flip sides of a coin, like yin and yang, these two instruments were made to be played together While they often share space in larger musical ensembles, rarely have clarinet and vibes been showcased with the empathy heard on this session, including three very fine duets (Memories Of You, I Wish l'd Met You, and Moonglow). With no short shrift intended for bassist Roger Kimball and drummer Tim Gilmore, who are solid equal partners on this session, the clarinet-vibes pairing grabs the ear because of the special musical combination that is at work. 'I noticed that right off the bat when playing with Ed. I've been able to come up with ideas I have never found with anybody else.' Skoler says. 'We're not always sure who is following whom when we play, but there is always a real melodic affinity.' The music on Skoler's first recording as a leader swings sweetly. At times it is exacting and delicate. There's a cool jazz feel that avoids the roughshod abandon of beboppers even when Harry's playing breaks into an occasional hot sweat The standards Skoler & Co. offer up here are melodic showcases. Clarinet and vibes are featured from the start on Irving Berlin's classic If l Had You, Skoler's hero Benny Goodman's Stompin' At The Savoy, the three aforementioned duets and several other gems, including Sweet Lorraine, the Bernstein/Sondheim classic Somewhere from West Side Story, and the Gershwins' Soon. We are treated to a duet shift on the Brazilian standard Recado Bossa Nova, which features Skoler's clarinet with Kimball's bass work Harry shifts to tenor sax, and Ed Saindon to piano, for the classic Johnny Mandel/Peggy Lee tune The Shining Sea, which floats easily over a mood setting Latin beat from Kimball and Gilmore We get a taste of Harry's alto playing on Treasures, an original written for his fiancee, Joanne; his flute work on The Sweetest Sounds; and his piano on Happiness Is, a tasty ballad written by melody master Vince Guaraldi. The level of empathy among these players comes through clearest on a lesser-known but equally exquisite Johnny Mandel treasure, El Cajon, and on the finale. The latter is an extended solo showcase written by Ed Saindon that has been titled Conversations In The Language Of Jazz. Conversation is the right word. Listen to the interplay within the quartet as Harry gradually works his way up the clarinet's three registers while stretching the melody with his solos. Harry Skoler has learned his lessons well, particularly mentor Jimmy Giuffre's advice to trust his individuality, to play with clarity, and always use his music to tell a story. That advice is the essence of these fine conversations. -Ken Frankling Ken Franckling, a winner of the ASCAP Deems Taylor award for excellence in music journalism, is a contributing writer and photographer for Downbeat Jazz Times, Swing Journal and many other publications. Harry Skoler - Bio Jazz clarinetist Harry Skoler was born in Syracuse, NY in 1956. Harry is Professor of Woodwinds at Boston's prestigious Berklee College of Music. He received his Bachelor of Music degree from Berklee in 1978, and a Master of Music degree from New England Conservatory in 1986, where he studied with legendary jazz great Jimmy Giuffre. His recordings include Conversations in the Language of Jazz, Reflections on the Art of Swing - A Tribute to Benny Goodman, A Work of Heart on Brownstone Recordings and Two Ones on Soliloquy Records. He has authored articles on jazz education, including a 'Pro-Workshop' article in Downbeat magazine, and has been included with a biography and philosophy of artistry in Gianluca Campagnolo's Volume 10 method book for clarinet, which features bios and tips from many of today's prominent clarinetists. In 2005 Harry contributed to a clarinet method book by Vandoren and published by Carl Fischer entitled THE VANDOREN ETUDE & EXERCISE BOOK FOR CLARINET - THE SECRETS OF TEN MASTER CLARINETISTS. In 2007 Harry contributed to a jazz saxophone method book by Vandoren and published by Carl Fischer entitled THE VANDOJAZZ ETUDE AND EXERCISE BOOK FOR SAXOPHONE - THE SECRETS OF TEN MASTER SAXOPHONISTS. He has garnered numerous national and international reviews, including reviews in JazzTimes, Downbeat, and Jazziz among others. Cover features include Strictly Jazz, Jazz Quarterly, Northeast Performer, and Jazz Now magazines - and bio/reviews in AMG's All Music Guide to Jazz book. He has been 'charted' for national radio airplay on Gavin Magazine's Jazz Chart, and in April 2000, he charted at #8! On Jazziz magazine's Top 40 'Radioactive' chart. Performances include national jazz clubs and festivals, including the Blue Note in NYC, and tours in Costa Rica, Japan and Norway. In addition to touring with his group, Harry reaches thousands of young people each year with the educational ensemble 'Adventures With Jazz'. Harry has been featured on many national radio interviews and on the nationally televised BET program 'Jazz Discovery'. Endorsements include Buffet Group USA, Vandoren Reeds, Mouthpieces, and Accessories, and Applied Microphone Technology, Inc. He lives in Haverhill, MA with his wife Joanne, and children Daniel, Amelia, and Gianna. Reviews 'Skoler displays a mastery of his instrument and a sweet, laid back attack. Contributing to this refined atmosphere is vibist Ed Saindon, who complements Skoler beautifully, most notably in the interplay on the extended title track original. If you enjoy delicate and sweet music, this disk should rate high.' - Sid Gribetz - JazzTimes 'This gently swinging set is easily enjoyable. It is to Skoler's credit that, even on the Benny Goodman associated material, his own musical personality shines through. There is no question that Harry Skoler is his own man.' - Scott Yanow - L.A. Jazz Scene 'This new compact disk by clarinetist Harry Skoler is quite unique . . . In this age of fusion and MIDI, Skoler's clarinet finds home base on each of these tracks. His Interpretations and solos take the listener back to the heart of jazz . . . Anchored by Kimball's and Gilmore's solid playing, Skoler and Saindon have produced an excellent CD.' - Mark Ford - Percussive Arts Society 'Skoler has a cool sound on clarinet...Ed Saindon blends well with Skoler while Kimball and Gilmore are fine in support. The result is a likable and quiet group sound... The performances are consistently tasteful.' - Scott Yanow - The Mississippi Rag 'Fortunately, there are still some artists out there who combine an understanding of the roots of jazz with musical talent to match. One such is clarinetist Harry Skoler. In 'Conversations' Skoler puts it all together with meticulous rendering of classics... while the others (Saindon, Kimball and Gilmore) do accompany Skoler's solo work, they also stand out as truly talented individuals, creating a musical consensus. This recording is a conversation among four musicians whose instruments speak for them.' - Tom Hall - Portsmouth Herald 'Skoler is a player on the move, he's ready and armed. A good collection of tracks, Conversations... should definitively bring a wind of opportunities to this artist.' - Dante Ferrarini - New England Performer 'While the rest of the jazz world seemingly runs toward the crossover line with alto saxes armed and ready for the next commercial oodles of noodles fest, clarinetist Harry Skoler stands as a breed apart. A perfect cabin fever album... Conversations is imbued with a kind of restraint that has a laid back charm all it's own that's very, very listenable. File under cool.' - Cub Koda - CD Review 'The conversations between soloists are the heart of this disc. There is real interaction between the musicians, not just everyone reciting his part and soloing when the time comes.' - Robert Tate - Jazz Now 'Who is Harry Skoler, and why is he making such beautiful sounds on the clarinet? Mr. Skoler possesses great tonal beauty. There is a definite 'chamber jazz' feel at work here. 'Refined', 'sophisticated', and 'gently swinging' are other words that spring to mind. The title track ably demonstrates the levels of sophistication and intimacy that can be attained in a quartet setting like this. Discriminating music lovers, I urge you to make room in your collections for the effort of Messieurs Skoler and Saindon.' - J.0. Spaak - WWUH Jazz Radio News Harry Skoler plays Buffet Clarinets and Vandoren Reeds, Mouthpieces, and Accessories exclusively.