San Diego Symphony: Eddie Gomez Doesn’t Play the Clarinet


My sister played the clarinet. Poorly and, thank goodness, infrequently.

Thus my unfortunate association to that instrument until I heard Richard Stoltzman’s “new” release Brasil while in college (1991). I was a double bassist and bought the album to hear Stoltzman’s bassist, Eddie Gomez.

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I was obsessed with Gomez’ playing since hearing him on Bill EvansYou Must Believe in Spring. Listen to his lyricism and rhythmic complexity starting at 1:38 of the link. Notice his continued returns to that gorgeous melody. Enjoy the bubbly, triplet-laden passage from 2:28 to 2:33.

Gomez’ fearlessness is on full display in Chick Corea‘s Three Quartets. Listen to his solo on Quartet No. 2, Part II at 3:49. Gomez’ restless, almost manic, exploration of the upper register is exciting and terrifying. By 4:41 it sounds like he’s ready to jump out of his skin. And he transfers that energy into a face-scrunchingly funky lead-in, from 5:27 to 5:31, to tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker‘s solo.

What kind of musical force of nature improvises that?!?

College wrestling matches require less exertion.

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Please understand that I purchased Stoltzman’s Brasil exclusively to hear Eddie Gomez. It barely registered that the band leader played clarinet. I’d have paid double for a version with the other instruments’ volumes lowered in the mix.

So I enthusiastically listened to Mr. Gomez, and tolerated the other musicians.

Until Dawn, the album’s last track.

Stoltzman’s execution of a minor 10th interval at 0:25 is almost as breathtaking as his whispered response seconds later.

When you hear Gomez’ outrageous and tender solo, starting at 2:08, do not walk away, as I did, to get your anti-anxiety medication because you are overwhelmed. Do not entertain the thought that you not only selected the wrong instrument, the double bass, but that it is time to retire from music and never ever try to play anything lovely ever again because what’s the point.

Now notice Gomez’ series of three-note figures beginning at 3:06. The overall movement is decidedly descending.

Stoltzman’s re-entry at 3:15 is casual. A simple three-step ascending figure, then repeated in the next ascending sequence of the diatonic scale, and then the entire six-note phrase repeated. An elegant response to Gomez’ call.

Stoltzman’s flawless blend, easy and relaxed feel, full and round tone, and compelling sense of rhythm spoke to me. I forgot about whoever was on bass, Eddie something I think.

It was like a moment of enlightenment. I was officially a fan of The Clarinet.

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San Diego Symphony Principal Clarinet Sheryl Renk‘s playing brings me back to that experience. I’ve been a fan since hearing her in a small ensemble 4 years ago.

She is a consistent joy to hear. Listen to her:

  • Honest and clear delivery.
  • Decisive rhythm.
  • Memorable melodies.
  • Warm tone that steps forward when needed. And blends seamlessly.
  • Intimate and firm pianissimo.

And she plays ridiculously intricate passages with an almost stubborn poise.

Listen to her perform live to hear for yourself.

Before you go, though, you might enjoy this perspective on The Clarinet.

Stay tuned for San Diego Symphony 1/11/20: The Psychology of an Ax!

Thanks for reading!

2 thoughts on “San Diego Symphony: Eddie Gomez Doesn’t Play the Clarinet

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