HONK’s reedman, newly married to the love of his life, shares the ecstasy of fresh romance, his passion for beautiful melody, a longstanding affair with the clarinet, & the intimacy of a superior jazz quartet.
The sessions which resulted in “Ripples” were some of the most amazing i have ever experienced. Somehow, this quartet jelled from the first moment. i hope you will experience the joy, peace, and spirit of that week as you listen.
Every once in a while, you chance upon a serendipity which is rare in human experience. Such was my meeting with New York pianist & arranger Linda Dowdell. From our first duo gig, there was a simpatico between us such as i have never known in 30 years as a professional reed player. When i became the proud foster parent of a homeless Steinway named Gertrude, it grew obvious we needed to record this unusual nexus. Bassist Ted Enderle & percussionist Tom Svornich were obvious choices to round out the quartet. They have played together in various settings for years, and, from the many gigs i have done with them, i knew the chemistry would be right between this foursome, as it was from the first moment they shook Linda’s hand.
In preparing to record these 11 songs, i thought long & hard about which instrument(s) to use. i did test recordings of all the tunes, first on tenor sax, then on alto sax, and finally on clarinet. 2 weeks before the scheduled recording sessions began, i received an extraordinary clarinet mouthpiece in the mail. The transformation was phenomenal, as if the clarinet had metamorphosed into an entirely different instrument. That settled it! This needed to be a clarinet CD. The fact that all 11 songs were recorded by the same 4 people on the same 4 instruments in the same 4 sessions gives this CD a unity i have never before achieved. (Coming from “Honk” with our 3 singers, 3 writers, & 3 soloists, stagnancy has never been a concern!) Even so, there is plenty of diversity on “Ripples,” thanks to the rich variety of composers and rhythmic approaches presented on the record.
The pieces of this puzzle fit together in an uncanny way, one i have never before experienced. From Neil’s expert recording to Pat’s sensitive mastering to Paul’s intuitive graphic treatment, “Ripples” has inspired me to once again embrace life’s many waves.
Of the 9 terrific standards in this collection, some have not as yet received the recognition they deserve. Let’s explore each in turn
While there are wonderful readings of Quincy Jones’ lovely “The Midnight Sun Will Never Set” by Marshall Royal, Milt Jackson, Phil Woods, and others, it was Sarah Vaughn’s vocal that totally knocked me out. Linda, Ted, & Tom were deeply moved when i played Sarah’s recording for them, and they proceeded to create a setting which fully captures the mystic mood of this extraordinary piece.
“What?” is an original melody set to the changes of Cole Porter’s “What Is This Thing Called Love,” but with 1 extra bar added to accommodate the “?”.
Duke Ellington’s great tune “I Didn’t Know About You” grabbed me when i heard vocal recordings by Jo Stafford and Ella Fitzgerald.
The standard “Get Happy” here receives one of Linda Dowdell’s sparkling original arrangements. Though it was more choreographed than the rest of the CD, “Get Happy” comes across as spontaneous and fresh, thanks to everyone’s willingness to jump in the water and splash around.
“Invitation” has long intrigued me, with its most unusual harmonic context, the large leaps in its melody, and the surrealistic lyrics. It was Seattle vocalist Karen Shivers who made those lyrics come alive for me, and the amazing improv by Ralph Moore inspired me to tackle this challenging composition.
I have often sung “I’m Glad There Is You” for my wife Faye in our performances, and the audience seems to appreciate the song as much as Faye does. “In this world of overrated pleasures and underrated treasures, i’m glad there is you.” A beautiful melody, an unusually tender lyric. Written by reed man Jimmy Dorsey…how interesting!
As a child, i was blown away by Benny Goodman’s Quartet (with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson, and Gene Krupa). Their recording of “The Man I Love” is of course a ballad and an amazing rendition. Thus, it was a head spinner to hear Coleman Hawkins fly through this Gershwin classic at triple speed! i studied Bean’s solo for months before attempting my own interpretation. Eddie Heywood & Oscar Pettiford also did some of their finest work on Hawk’s recording, which greatly excited Linda & the guys, when i played it for them. Although they knew “Man” as a ballad, they caught the vision of the up-tempo treatment, as i had hoped they would, and the rest of the date was smooth sailing.
“Don’t Misunderstand” received stellar ballad treatments by both Etta Jones and Houston Person, but i preferred to approach it as a bossa nova, a choice i do not regret and hope you will enjoy.
What child of the 50’s was not entranced by Mary Martin’s inspired portrayal of Peter Pan? She had already won my heart in “South Pacific.” As a matter of fact, she saved my life! Can i tell that story? “Honk” was dying on the vine as warm-up act for “The Beach Boys” at a date in San Francisco. The fans were not digging us at all, but were impatient for the headliner to come on. In desperation, 3 of us stepped to the front of the stage and sang “Some Enchanted Evening” acapella. At first, the audience thought we were joking. Then, the mob got real quiet. At the last chord of “never let her go,” the place erupted. From then on, we had them. On the present CD, Linda asked that we do “Never Never Land” as a waltz, a favorite genre of hers, and it works really well on this timeless ballad.
“October” is an original with a harmonic sequence which i have found to be ideal for improvisation. Once the quartet overcame its idiosyncrasies, they really warmed to it. Tom discovered rhythmic subtleties in the tune i had not known were there.
i have been dying to record “We’ll Be Together Again” ever since i first heard the wonderful duet of Ray Charles & Betty Carter.
As you can see from the above remarks, singers have greatly inspired me over the years, although my own singing has been limited. The reed instruments tend to be quite voice-like, and i hope you will hear a bit of this quality in my clarinet on “Ripples.”
1. The Midnight Sun Will Never Set (Quincy Jones / BMG RUBY SONGS OBO SILHOUETTE MUSIC) 5:09
2. What? (Craig Buhler / Discernment Music, ASCAP) 6:15
3. I Didn’t Know About You (Duke Ellington, Bob Russell / MUSIC SALES CORPORATION, SONY ATV HARMONY) 6:38
4. Get Happy (HAROLD ARLEN, TED KOEHLER / WB MUSIC CORP, S.A. MUSIC) 4:16
5. Invitation (BRONISLAU KAPER, PAUL FRANCIS WEBSTER / EMI ROBBINS CATALOG INC, WEBSTER MUSIC CORP.) 8:10
6. I’m Glad There is You (PAUL MADEIRA, JIMMY DORSEY / MORLEY MUSIC CO.) 5:16
7. The Man I Love (GEORGE GERSHWIN, IRA GERSHWIN / WB MUSIC CORP) 4:18
8. Don’t Misunderstand (Gordon Parks / EMI Music Publishing) 5:35
9. Never Never Land (BETTY COMDEN, ADOLPH GREEN, JULE STYNE / MPL MUSIC PUBLISHING, INC. OBO EDWIN H. MORRIS & CO.) 5:08
10. October (Craig Buhler / Discernment Music, ASCAP) 7:06
11. We’ll Be Together Again (FRANKIE LAINE, CARL FISCHER / CARES MUSIC COMPANY, TERRY FISCHER MUSIC CO.) 5:48
Craig Buhler, clarinet
Linda Dowdell, piano
Ted Enderle, bass
Tom Svornich, drums
Produced by Craig Buhler
“Get Happy” arranged by Linda Dowdell
Recorded & Mixed by Neil Usselman
Mastered by Pat Woodland
Designed by Paul Staples
(C) & (P) 2012 by Discernment Music, ASCAP
Special thanks to Nancy Renner for her wonderful piano “Gertrude Steinway” and to my tuner, Ira Langlois.
Thanks to Andy Geiger, John Zuerner, Mark Merrikin, Michael Burr, Bob Chinello, Steve Wood, Mark Turnbull, Will Brady, & Richard Stekol.