A star turn for the ‘secondary’ clarinet

Special to The Times

Clarinet players would have a hard time finding a better friend than Clare Fischer. At a time when the instrument -- except in classical music settings -- is largely relegated to secondary status, the veteran composer-arranger is now providing it with an extraordinary showcase in the ensemble he calls his Clarinet Choir.

On Sunday at the Jazz Bakery, the 13-piece ensemble performed a program of Fischer’s arrangements and original compositions, delightfully displaying the instrument’s musical virtues.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Feb. 12, 2003 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday February 12, 2003 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 10 inches; 384 words Type of Material: Correction
Musician’s name -- In a review in Tuesday’s Calendar of Clare Fischer’s Clarinet Choir, brass player Les Benedict was mistakenly identified as Les Shelton.

Most of the pieces were drawn from a recording, “On a Turquoise Cloud,” with many of the same performers -- including frequent soloists Gary Foster and Don Shelton, and the group’s two brass players, Steve Huffsteter and Les Shelton -- present for the live performance.

Like Mozart, whose Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet established the instrument’s primary aural template, Fischer realizes that the clarinet, with its three-octave-plus range, has at least three distinctly useful tonal registers. By exploiting the different qualities of those areas, enhancing his color palette by also including E-flat alto clarinet, B-flat bass clarinet and E-flat contrabass clarinet, his charts shimmered with a gorgeous range of multihued sounds.


On “Westwood Walk,” for example, the clarinets were brisk and rhythmic in their dark-toned chalumeau register; in Fischer’s transcription of Bach’s “Air for the G String,” the B-flat clarinets played the haunting melody in unison via the more penetrating clarion register.

Other tunes employed the full resources of all the instruments, from furry contrabass bottom to soaring high-note altissimo.