Reflections on the Art of Swing
Harry Skoler - Clarinet Ed Saindon - Vibraphone Roger Kimball - Bass Tim Gilmore - Drums Liner Notes - Harry Skoler's debut for Brownstone (Conversations in the Language of Jazz) featured his quartet playing swing standards along with some more modern pieces and the leader's original 'Treasures.' For his second recording, the clarinetist looks back towards his original inspiration, Benny Goodman. Skoler's father had been a clarinetist but quit years before his son was born, and his mother was a singer who also played piano. 'My mother started giving me piano lessons when I was five but I was not that interested so it didn't last very long' remembers Skoler who was born and raised in Syracuse, New York. 'I took up clarinet when I was nine and had such miserable teachers that I quit within nine months. Then when I was thirteen my parents found a great teacher, Doug Soyars, and I started taking lessons from him. After a year and a half, he asked if I wanted to learn about jazz. I didn1t know anything about jazz at that point so he gave me a clarinet transcription of Benny Goodman from the 1940's and told me to go home and learn it. I did and the following week played it for him, horribly, as if it were a classical exercise. He took the clarinet out of my hand and wailed on the piece. The sound of the clarinet along with the swing rhythm completely blew me away and I went out and bought the album Benny Goodman's Greatest Hits. I made up my mind that this was going to be what I did with my life and I told my parents that night that I was going to be a jazz clarinetist.' Skoler knew what direction he wanted to go in fairly early. 'I started collecting records and my parents took me to concerts featuring such great musicians as Earl Hines, Bobby Hackett, Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Goodman. I was willing to play anywhere and had all kinds of gigs, getting all of the experience I could.' He attended Ithaca College for a period and then went to Berklee College of Music (where two of his favorite teachers were Joe Viola and Andy McGhee), graduating in 1978. By then Skoler was also playing tenor, flute and piano and was quite familiar with more modern styles of jazz. A three year period in Nashville found him gigging with his own group, teaching and working in the studios. 'I became concerned about making enough money so I went into architecture since my father is an architect. I studied at Syracuse University, but I just wasn't happy being away from playing. So I returned to music, attended the New England Conservatory and studied with Jimmy Giuffre. I found the confidence to fully dedicate myself to music; it has worked out well.' Since graduating from the New England Conservatory in 1986 with a Master of Music degree in Jazz Studies, Harry Skoler has been quite busy. He has worked in the studios, played with the shows 'Ain't Misbehavin'' and 'Nunsense' and led his own groups, most notably the quartet featured on both of his Brownstone recordings. 'Tim Gilmore has been playing drums with me since 1984. We worked together in a number of groups including a trio where I was playing mostly piano and synthesizer. Tim and I really connect and seem to be able to read each other's minds. I have been playing with bassist Roger Kimball since 1987 and I also originally played piano with him. In both cases our friendships have made our exchanges more conversational than with other players. I played a trio concert in 1993 with Tim and Roger (the first time that we all performed together) and at that point I wanted to get back to playing clarinet. I put on a couple of additional concerts with a pianist to round out the quartet but it wasn't clicking. Ed Saindon was the missing piece. Roger had played with Ed before and he recommended him. The first time we got together at Ed1s house, it worked. Ed plays vibes quite pianistically and has a unique style with sensitive phrasing and lots of color and texture. The quartet provides the perfect setting for my clarinet.' While Harry Skoler had played tenor, alto, flute and piano on one selection apiece (in addition to his clarinet) on Conversations in the Language of Jazz, for his Benny Goodman tribute he sticks exclusively to clarinet except for a taste of his cool-toned tenor on 'Undecided.' 'Ed Saindon did the arrangements, and the whole quartet had input during the rehearsals' remembers Skoler. 'We played some of the first tunes that I had loved when I was a kid. I did not try to sound like Benny Goodman but I hear him in the songs. I feel that I can be myself playing swing and can make my own contribution without having to try to sound like a Benny Goodman clone.' Although some of the arrangements closely recall the Benny Goodman Quartet and Sextet of the 1935-45 period, Skoler has his own lyrical sound on clarinet and does not copy Goodman's solos. Also, Ed Saindon's style owes as much to Red Norvo as to Lionel Hampton and the lack of a piano in the rhythm section helps give the Quartet it's own personality. Each of the 11 swing standards are easily enjoyable without detailed program notes. A few of the highlights include 'Don't Be That Way' (which Goodman usually performed with his big band rather than small group), the uptempo 'After You've Gone,' Fats Waller's tricky 'Handful Of Keys,' a charming rendition of 'What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry' and an unusual version of 'Just You, Just Me' that is a clarinet-vibes duet. In addition there are two new and original compositions. 'Benny' is a thoughtful duet by it's co-composers Skoler and Saindon, while the vibraphonist contributed the complex but swinging 'Reflections on the Art of Swing.' In addition to playing regularly with his Quartet, Harry Skoler performs at schools throughout New England with his 'Adventures With Jazz' program. 'We have a whole show that involves the kids and gets them to improvise for the first time. It is a mission I have to introduce this music to younger people.' Through his own example and rewarding recordings such as Reflections on the Art of Swing, Harry Skoler is insuring that swing music will continue to thrive for decades to come. Scott Yanow - Editor of the All Music Guide To Jazz, and a regular contributor to nine music magazines. 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 - Reflections on the Art of Swing '...this reviewer was bowled over by his purity of tone and innovative improvisation. Where has this man been all these years?' - David Miller, Swingin' Down the Lane 'Truly excellent clarinetists know how to make the instrument sound sexy; Harry Skoler is definitely one of them...Skoler lays back, letting his clarinet seduce with purring trills that stretch the limits of human hearing. On 'Benny', ...Skoler plays a duet with vibraphonist Ed Saindon, showcasing his ability to pull the listener in with his sound. Here he doesn't showboat or barnstorm...the interplay between him and Saindon reveals something more cerebral and textural, like he was really playing it for Goodman. It's heartfelt and enjoyable...' - Michael Bieber, Jazziz 'Harry Skoler's new CD is a thoughtful, intelligent, and loving bow to Benny Goodman and to his influence on all Jazz...It's a daunting task to play so many pieces of music that are emotionally connected to another instrumentalist and still make fresh and individual statements. Skoler has risen to the challenge and stayed true to Benny Goodman's spirit. He has also taken those same tunes and shown how strong both he and the songs really are...Reflections on the Art of Swing captures the feeling and energy of those days while remaining firmly based on today. It offers a new vehicle in a vintage spirit. I'm sure Benny Goodman is smiling somewhere. I knew Harry Skoler when we both attended Berklee College of Music in the late seventies. He has continued along a singular path of musical integrity that was evident almost twenty years ago. I am very glad to see his talent in such a showcase.' - Stan Bann, Jazz Now '...this is a labor of love. And though Goodman's spirit peaks out from behind the phrases, it's clear that Skoler is his own man. Whether a roller-coaster ride through 'Handful of Keys' or a meditation on 'Rose Room', Skoler speaks confidently with a poignantly transparent and vibrant sound.' - Chuck Berg, JazzTimes 'There's nothing new about Benny Goodman small-group tributes. What's new about this one is how little the clarinetist, though working with familiar repertoire in a Swing framework, actually tries to sound like Benny. Harry Skoler has a discernibly more modern timbre than anyone from Benny's generation. Yet he never falls into the clinical-clarinetisms that occasionally afflicted even such luminaries as Buddy DeFranco. Strongly recommended.' - Robert L. Campbell, Cadence 'This is an album which should appeal to those who dig swing classics played with a fresh approach.' - Joanne Day, Jersey Jazz 'Skoler's quartet is tight...and has a strong sound grounded in the harmonic interplay between Skoler and vibraphonist Ed Saindon. Their romping arrangement of 'Flying Home' is stunning.' - Ken Franckling, UPI '...Skoler plays flawlessly throughout...His beautifully contoured, well-modulated soft tone, his trills and tremolos, his fluency over the instrument's vast terrain are all worthy of commendation...' - Jack Sohmer, Mississippi Rag 'Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Harry Skoler, splendidly assisted by a world-class rhythm team, proves that he has somehow acquired the musical sensibilities of an earlier era on his Reflections on the Art of Swing: A Tribute to Benny Goodman.' - W. Royal Stokes, author, Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson and The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990 '... a worthy tribute to the great master...Benny would have been proud...' '...absolutely gripping, taking the listener by the hand and heart through a caressing tribute to a great man and musician....the quartet deserve and reward dedicated attention. This is real music and it's great music.' - Matt 'Rocky' Robinson, Northeast Performer 'The disc, Reflections on the Art of Swing, swings but also soothes, with Skoler and his cohorts displaying a high degree of musical empathy.' - Mark Cadigan, Worcester Magazine 'While the spirit of the great band leader is never far from Skoler's clarinet playing, it's the chemistry between the band, vibraphonist Ed Saindon, bassist Roger Kimball, and drummer Tim Gilmore, that makes the disc one of the most enjoyable of the year.' - Brian Goslow, The Worcester Phoenix 'Skoler is a skilled reedman...the group...has it's own distinctive sound, reflecting the arranging skills of all four members.' - Don Farwell, Tailgate Ramblings '...Harry Skoler shows his mastery of the clarinet on Reflections...' - Andy Smith, The Providence Journal '...good versions of Goodman...'Flying Home' is particularly strong ...' - Bob Karlovits, Tribune Review Radio: #2 Most Added, breaks Gavin jazz chart for second year in a row (#42) with airplay on over 220 stations! 'Refreshing 'new,' old sound' - Bob Parzych, WRTC 'I like this record a lot - just as good as the last one...Nice arrangements and lots of style.' - Jeff Holtz, WIUM/WIUW-FM 'Damn fine!' - Seth M., KIPO 'Good reflection of Benny.' - Jessica Thomas, KKFI 'Wonderful recording.' - Catherine M. Gollers, KGNU 'Nice traditional sound.' - Bob Powell, West Virginia Public Radio 'I love Harry's music and can't wait to have him in the studio for an interview!' - Julia Figueras, New Hampshire Public Radio 'Looking forward to getting Harry back on the show soon. I hope I can help you get him booked out here in the mid-west.' - Leigh Kamman, Minnesota Public Radio 'He plays a fantastic clarinet and has a fine quartet' - Egon Staniok, Radio Jazz, Denmark TV: Performance video from Boston's Gail Harris show featured on Jazz Discovery (BET Television) 'When Harry Skoler plays you can hear him smiling. He infuses Benny Goodman's music with his own unique sound and energy. Benny must be smiling, too.' - Toni Ballard, producer/host Studio 3, WGNC-TV3 'Harry offers up another outstanding album, and a fitting tribute to the master, Benny Goodman.' - Marc Lemay, Local Music Showcase Harry Skoler plays Buffet Clarinets and Vandoren Reeds, Mouthpieces, and Accessories exclusively.