Julian Bliss is a rara avis: a distinguished classical musician also enraptured with great jazz. We've seen his ilk before and have always been highly enamored of these people: Rampal, Bolling, even Kiri Te Kanawa dipped into the jazz world to marvelous results. But you need to know that Bliss is indeed a classicalist because that's the only way you'll understand why his tone is so incredibly pure and smooth. Even during complicated passages (catch The World is Waiting for Sunshine and Avavlon), his control and musical demeanour are astonishing, and A Tribute to Benny Goodman is just that: an enshrinement of the one man everyone thinks of when the word 'clarinet' is uttered.
More, Bliss chose a highly skilled combo to back him and even devoted an unusually generous lowdown on all of 'em a la one of those killer Naxos jazz releases everyone loves (and Signum lavished Naxos-level documentation qualities on this disc), gents who are well-pedigreed players and just as sophisticated in all nuances as Bliss himself. I was especially delighted when Colin Oxley and his guitar were given clear runways to take off and fly. That doesn't happen very much in swing music, but, regardless, every one of these gentz is an adept of the first water.
The brio and gorgeous tonicities all through Tribute are infectious, as are the joie de vivre and genteel élan, and Bliss & Co. add much to these standards. A septet is, of course, a small format and Goodman's band, along with all the others' (Shaw, Dorsey, Herman, Barnet, etc.), tended to be big band organized, but nothing is missed in the transition, merely a form of reductionism that covers all bases save for the acreage of sound native to large horn sections. On other other hand, the clarity of each player is vastly more pronounced within a pristinely executed engineering job. If you've ever wondered what the hippest among past generations were listening and dancing to while waiting for rock and roll to be invented, this is it, y'all, and you'll soon understand that not only were our grandparents just as rooty-toot unorthodox in their own way as we were but also that their favored musical mode brought them exactly what clarinetist Julian is surnamed for—bliss—just as Led Zeppelin and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young have done for us.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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