Henry Brant: Jazz Clarinet Concerto


Jazz Clarinet Concerto


Henry Brant


The Henry Brant Collection, Vol. 8 (Innova 415)

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with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble


Composed by Henry Brant


Recorded: Utrecht, Holland, January 8, 1984


Rating: 85/100 (learn more)

Henry Brant (1913 - 2008) is one of the mavericks of American music. A Canadian by birth, he moved to the United States with his family in 1929. He had a highly successful career as a composer and orchestrator for radio, recording and motion pictures (he was Alex North's orchestrator for such scores as Cleopatra and Cheyenne Autumn). In the 1950's, he began composing spatial works exclusively, with various instrumental groups spread out all over the stage and even the seats of a performance space. His works include Orbits for 80 trombones, and Meteor Farm for orchestra, jazz band, two choruses, West African drum ensemble and chorus, South Indian soloists, gamelan ensemble, percussion orchestra and two sopranos. His Ice Field won the Pulitzer Prize. He was a member of the Academy of Arts & Letters and taught at Juilliard, Columbia University and Bennington College.

In 1946, Brant wrote Jazz Clarinet Concerto for Benny Goodman. He had previously arranged two Alec Templeton pieces for the Goodman band - "Bach Goes to Town" and "Mozart Matriculates." Goodman rejected the Concerto claiming it was too abstract. While it could be argued that he'd commissioned pieces from Bartok and Hindemith and both of those pieces could be considered abstract as well, Goodman didn't play those pieces once he's premiered them. Both Eddie Sauter and Mel Powell wrote the kind of virtuoso clarinet pieces he liked to play, and perhaps he expected the same thing from Brant. What Brant did write was a piece that sounded a lot like what Goodman was playing on the job in 1946, but goes its own way. It does not sound like a classical piece that swings, it sounds like three ambitious swing pieces which would have been fun to hear if Benny had given this work a chance. Above all, the work is a piece audiences would want to hear again. It approaches the jazz band on its own terms, and as a result, I believe it to be far more successful than Ebony Concerto and even "Prelude, Fugue and Riffs."

This performance was apparently recorded on a cassette tape machine, and is in mono. While the sound quality is adequate and the performance very good, at least the piece can be heard and perhaps adopted by a clarinetist looking for something a bit different but audience-friendly.

Reviewer: Jeff Sultanof

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