This month we will be continuing the guest artist series with the one and only Dave Seiler. This a particularly special night for a few of us that studied with Dave while at the University of New Hampshire. He is a fantastic clarinetist who can pick up a saxophone whenever he wants. A very important educator and life-long advocate of music and arts. Dave has provided countless opportunities for generations of young musicians.
We will be playing a collection of traditional swing repertoire with tunes made popular by Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, as well as a collection of Duke Ellington's music. The show is happening Tuesday March 29th @ 9:00pm at Sonnys Tavern in Dover Nh. See you there.
As usual, here is a little Q&A session with guest artist Dave Seiler.
You play both saxophone and clarinet. Who are your biggest influences in the world of swing/jazz clarinet?
In my early years of high school, without question, my two biggest influences were Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Soon thereafter, I heard Buddy DeFranco for the first time, and he became a major influence. Next, I was blown away by Eddie Daniels. In another way, Ellington's clarinet players, especially Jimmy Hamilton, were an influence. I might add that both Buddy DeFranco and Eddie Daniels appeared at UNH, and I was able to spend quite a bit of time with both of them.
Can you elaborate on why Duke Ellington was such a monumental figure in American music? He's not a figure from New Orleans (like Louis Armstrong or Sidnet Bechet), but its impossible to think about the tradition without thinking of Duke.
Duke was coming from a different direction for a number of reasons. He was brought up in Washington, D.C., and within eyesight of the White House. He also studied a certain amount of classical composition while in high school. His influence began well before 1930 and from there, he was a major figure till the end of his life four decades later. Duke's band played a a performance at UNH in the last year of his life. His collaboration with Billy Strayhorn was also significant, as Strayhorn was musically very well trained in classical music. He really was the only person who had a band where the director composed for the group right along. As a pianist his voicings were way ahead of the times, and people tend to forget that. When asked what his favorite composition was, he replied, "The next one." Many of the members of the band were in the group throughout Duke's career.
You mentioned something I didn't know about Duke producing records for other artists as well. Whats the story there?
Duke was very kind to the members of his band, and a number of times when the band was not playing much, he would produce records in the artist's name, such as Hodges and Strayhorn. Another example of supporting musicians, is that he was also known to keep certain members on the payroll after they no longer played with the band. In short, one can study Ellington's life and be lucky to find all of the many things that he has done. The more you look, the more you find.
You've been a pioneer for music education your whole adult life. Specifically, you've created an environment across the state of New Hampshire (and surely impacted the New England region) where jazz education is important. Why? What does the jazz tradition offer young musicians? What does learning about the tradition offer non-musicians?
Jazz is a truly American art form. However, the essence of jazz is very entwined with classical music. For example, Charlie Parker listened to Hindemith and Stravinsky among others. This was true of many of the forward thinking jazz musicians. This is not to say that other influences were not important, such as rhythm and blues, gospel, etc. It's the melting pot of all these things that makes jazz so unique. One of the most important things about jazz education is not to forget about the musical founders such as Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Earl "Fatha"Hines, Ben Webster, and "Ma" Rainey.
As late as the 1950's and into the 60's, jazz was not a part of many public schools' music programs, was not even allowed in many colleges. This began to change with the North Texas State program, Stan Kenton music camps; now jazz is a very vital part of the music curriculum. In a way, introducing jazz to the school curriculum for all ages of students, has helped preserve the art form. Jazz introduces young musicians and listeners alike to a different musical genre.