Originally published in The Clarinet 47/1 (December 2019). Printed copies of The Clarinet are available for ICA members.
An Interview with Ron Odrich
by Jerry Rife
Dr. Ronald B. Odrich is a New York-based clarinetist who has built a career as a respected jazz artist, a published author, a painter, scientist, and internationally known Periodontist. He has performed with a great variety of jazz musicians including Clark Terry, Gerry Mulligan, Buddy DeFranco, and many others. He earned the highest praise from his peers and the admiration of all who hear his playing. A student of Robert Marcellus, Daniel Bonade, Jimmy Abato, Sal Amato, and David Weber, Ron credits Buddy DeFranco as his life-long mentor and role model. He holds a D.D.S. and a Certificate in Periodontology from Columbia University where he was an Associate Professor in the School of Dental and Oral Surgery for 28 years. His research in fluid dynamics and the air column within the oral cavity has shed new light on tone production and the production of the symphonic clarinet sound. Ron is one of the 2019 ICA Honorary Members and a musician who richly deserves to receive this prestigious award.
I had the good fortune to talk at length with Ron about his life, philosophy and art. This is an edited version of our conversation.
JERRY RIFE: Thanks so much for taking the time to discuss your life in music. Let me start by asking about the background of the name Odrich?
RON B. ODRICH: We are Italian. The original name was changed to Odrich at an American public school my father’s older sister attended. The school clerk was unable to read my grandmother’s script and decided on “Odrich”. It was considered an Americanization of Orefice by my Italian grandmother, although everyone in my father’s family, including me, has the name Orefice on their birth certificates.
JR: Were your parents musical?
RBO: Yes. My father was an excellent ‘cellist. He went on the road with Artie Shaw while he was at Yale for which he picked up an alto saxophone. In the 1920s Shaw wanted to take a string quartet on the road with him, so Dad played alto sax in the band and ‘cello in the string quartet. While in college he replaced the ‘cellist in the Budapest quartet on tour when their ‘cellist took ill. Ultimately Dad became a studio musician in NYC. He also was a superb oboist and English Horn player. He got the best English horn sound. During the golden era of the studios, he was very busy as a good saxophone, clarinet and flute doubler and first-rate ‘cellist, oboist and English horn player. Later as a cellist, he played with the Toscanini Orchestra. As a result of all of this, My brother and I had a rich exposure to music growing up.
JR: Did you start on clarinet?
RBO: As a youngster, I started with ‘cello and by age 12-13 I was working on the Bach unaccompanied ‘cello suites. Then I heard a recording of the Rhapsody in Blue–the glissando played on the clarinet got to me. Dad had a clarinet sitting around, and I picked it up. I had never played it before and didn’t know the fingerings but I wore the record out and ultimately could play the glissando as on the recording. The next thing I learned by ear was Dizzy Fingers from Benny Goodman’s recording. Then I learned Buddy DeFranco’s solo on a recording of Perdido. This was all unbeknownst to my father who was busy in the studios at the time. He was shocked when he walked in on me one day and heard me playing clarinet. He started to coach me and realized I didn’t know anything. I recall at one point for some reason, he asked me to play a B-natural, and when I had to admit I had no idea where that was, he realized I didn’t know what I was doing…but I could nail that glissando.
JR: At that point, I guess that the clarinet became to be your primary instrument.
RBO: Yes. I got to know Buddy DeFranco at a very early age. My father noticed that I was sounding just like this young man who was a frequent guest on a radio show that he played on. It was Buddy DeFranco, and my father introduced me to him at the Clique Club where Buddy was playing with George Shearing. What I heard that night blew me away. I was 13 or 14 years old and loved his playing. The exchange I had with him after the performance was really very special and so indicative of the kind of man he was. At that first meeting I said to him, “Mr. DeFranco, you sound incredible. I wish I could play like you, but at the same time I’m very disappointed.” He asked me why I was disappointed and I said because I wanted to be the first clarinet player to play like that. I had heard Charlie Parker and others and no one was playing clarinet that way, certainly not like Bird. Buddy’s response was very telling, “Don’t be disappointed, there’s plenty of room on top for clarinet players. If you want, I’ll help you.” That started our relationship. He became a very close friend of mine and my role model. When he was on the road, he would send postcards and whenever he was in town he would call, and I would take some lessons. He gave me basic lessons in harmony, clarinet playing, and improvisation. He was always there for me.
JR: Did you have any connection in your formative years to classical music and symphonic clarinetists?
RBO: Yes. As a youngster I listened to classical music and was drawn to the beautiful sound that could be produced on the clarinet. I have always preferred the “classical” sound. Buddy sounded great and I had heard Ralph McClain, Robert Marcellus and Daniel Bonade, and when I began on the clarinet I knew that’s what I wanted to sound like. Even at that early age I wanted to adapt that same great sound to playing jazz.
JR: When did your interest in dentistry develop?
RBO: It is may seem odd but at the same time I was drawn to the clarinet and jazz, I knew that I wanted to be a dentist. There’s an unusual story there. When I was about 8 years old my father developed a tooth ache and made an appointment with a gifted dentist for help. That stuck in my brain for some reason. I became intrigued by my mouth and mouths in general and was impressed that this dentist was capable of helping my father so well. Although my father was later to insist that I be a musician, to his dismay, I told him back then that I was going to be a dentist. The more interesting part of this story is that years later when I enrolled at Columbia University, I met the son of the very dentist who treated my father. He was on the staff of the dental school and later became the chairman of the department of Periodontology. He was instrumental in my becoming a periodontist. We became close friends and as a member of the staff, I taught there for many years.
JR: What were your first jazz gigs like?
RBO: I chose to go to Queens College in Queens over following my father’s footsteps at Yale because I was already playing in jazz clubs at age 17, and I wanted to stay and play in New York City. At one point I remember playing a session at Birdland and Bill Evans was the piano player. He was outstanding but I had no idea who he was. I got called to play that job on Buddy’s recommendation. As a result I was very active. I also played the Amber Club, The Metropole on Broadway and often sat in with Zoot Sims, Al Cohn and others. I had an absolutely great time with the clarinet. All the jazz gigs kept me solidly in New York. The clarinet served me very well and in retirement it serves me even better. Now I can really try to keep my chops in order, no small task on that horn.
JR: You joined the Air Force during the Korean war.
RBO: When I was in Queens College during the Korean War, I found out that the draft board was conscripting college kids, and that I was going in the next call up. So I made arrangements to try out for the Air Force Band with my brother, Jim, who got transferred from the Marines to the Air Force so we could play together. I truly lead a charmed life. Jim became the pianist for the Airmen of Note, and I was the clarinet soloist for three years with the Crew Chiefs, a jazz quartet in the Air Force. Then I returned to Queens College and applied and was accepted into Columbia University School of Dentistry.
JR: Who were your most important teachers?
RBO: Sal Amato, a close family friend, was my first and very important teacher. He was a doubler in the studios New York from Naples, Italy. He was principally a flutist, but he had the best clarinet, flute and oboe sounds I ever heard. My second teacher was Jimmy Abato. I studied with both of them for a good long time and worked on basics and etudes. When I went down to Washington Mr. Abato set me up to work with Bob Marcellus who was principal with the National Symphony at the time. We became close friends. He was living with his mother in Alexandria, Va. and would come to the Washington clubs where I was playing. We also listened to jazz records. I would go to hear him play as often as possible. The sound he got was beautiful. Years later I wound up teaching master classes for him at Northwestern. He was a phenomenal teacher. I would have gone to Evanston just to hear him play and attend his classes. Students would play for a few minutes, he would make a few suggestions and the students would sound 100% better. He was an outstanding diagnostician.
Bob presented a talk called “Toward a Tonal Concept” where he would play great recordings of Bonade and Ralph McClain and many others for the participants. He had cogent comments about everything. He was one of the smartest people I ever met. What some may not know is that he was a type one juvenile diabetic with lot of medical problems due to diabetes. As a result, he was forced to play in exactly a way that my article in The Clarinet describes.[i] He had to roll under his upper lip, pull back, position his tongue and place the tip of the tongue as close as possible to the tip of the reed. His sound got even darker and more beautiful. He would play excerpts for students and always sounded great. Upon my return to New York after the Air Force, Marcellus had insisted that I continue working with Bonade. I also studied with Kal Opperman and David Weber in addition to Bonade. For some years, Dave Weber and I played duets every Monday morning. He was always a pleasure to be with. He told me so many stories of his and life with tears in his eyes. He was a very sentimental, sensitive person and a marvelous clarinetist.
JR: I remember attending a master class at Northwestern University with Marcellus in 1971. He had not played for a decade due to medical problems with his eyes. One of the players was having a very tough time with the performance. She sounded bad and had a reed that wouldn’t cooperate with her mouthpiece. Marcellus was coaching her and finally took the clarinet out of her hands and played it the way he wanted it to be played. With her faulty equipment, he sounded as beautiful as ever. It was a stunning moment for all of us in attendance.
RBO: I had a similar experience in a very small room when I was studying with Bonade. I couldn’t get through this etude. Bonade was a bear of a man, big and imposing with his hair slicked back and greasy. He took my clarinet from my mouth. Now I had a bad reed and mouthpiece. He took my clarinet and played the entire etude from memory from three feet away looking me right in my eye. It was the most gorgeous thing I had ever heard. Afterward, I was breathless. I didn’t know what to say. The takeaway lesson in both cases is that the sound comes from the person, not the instrument!
Phil Woods tells a similar story about Charlie Parker. Phil was playing alto saxophone in a club downtown, and he had a bad strap, he couldn’t stand the mouthpiece and the instrument was leaking–it was awful. On the break, someone came into the club and said, “Byrd’s right around the corner and is supposed to be playing, but he is just sitting there for some reason.” Phil ran over to where Charlie Parker was supposed to be playing. Parker is sitting at the bar and he told Phil that he had to hock his horn; he didn’t have it.” Everyone knew that he was a heroin addict and would hock his horn for a fix. Phil ran back to his club and got this old horn that played terribly and gave it to Parker. He played the daylights out of it. It was a beautiful sound. Phil came to the same conclusion. Maybe it’s not the horn, maybe it’s the guy.
JR: How do you get the gorgeous sound that you have?
RBO: First of all thank you for the kind words. There are a lot of different aspects to this. Equipment is only one. The point is your equipment may not work with my mouth. Your equipment can’t be mine because your mouth can’t simulate exactly what my mouth is doing. Everyone has to work with what they are born with. Bob Marcellus was actually buck-toothed, as his upper front teeth drifted forward because of periodontal disease that he was vulnerable to from his diabetes. He had to find a way to create his sound with that structural difficulty. The bell is close to his belly and the tip of the mouthpiece is right near the back of his upper front teeth. If you are holding your clarinet out at 45% you can still get a gorgeous sound, but you will need to make all sorts of adjustments in your mouth to make sure the air velocity is at a level it needs to be. The oral structures are all different; the tongue, the arch of the pallet, the position of the teeth, where the tip of the mouthpiece sits in your mouth, whether the soft pallet is raised or you pull back on the upper lip to simulate the effect of the double-lip playing are just some of the variables. All these things are just part of a tremendous number of factors that affect the production of the sound. My contention has always been to just strive for the most beautiful, classical sound you can. I have been obsessive about that. One can try all sorts of mouthpieces and equipment, but in the end, it is not the mouthpiece. Bonade was right. Just get a mouthpiece with a medium tip and an acceptable feel, and, if it is comfortable, stick with it and learn how to play it by adjusting to it.
JR: You are a composer as well. Knoxville 19 was your latest work. I think you called it “not profound!” Can you speak about that?
RBO: Knoxville 19 was a very light piece. It was based on a solo I played once in a club and it was just like falling off a log. A lot of people liked it. It was fun. It was just something I did and expanded it for the conference. I wrote a symphonic piece called A Winter Fantasy, which featured my son as the principal clarinet player in a high school classical orchestra. It was a fine group on the order of a good college orchestra. It was a big effort, but it was well worth it.
JR: How about Furtive Visions by Leonard Bernstein. That was written by Bernstein and you recorded it.
RBO: That’s not quite accurate. One of my patients gave me an Eye Chart for Christmas, patterned after one of those Opthalmology Charts that had musical notes, [Eb, C#, etc.] on it instead of the normal simple letters. I put it up in my office because it made a lovely vertical poster. Lenny Bernstein was a patient of mine. He was in the office, saw it and memorized it. In the car on the way home, he wrote a six measure melody using the notes on the chart. Lenny was able to take anything and make music with it. He sent it to me. Eventually, I decided to record the piece with piano, bass and drums, add the harmonic basis, and use those intervals to improvise the rest of the piece. Only the first few measures are by Lenny, the rest of the piece is an improvisation by me and the accompaniment and the ending is a simple restatement of the melody as a farewell to Lenny who, by that time, had died. So they gave me a copyright including Lenny, me and Larry Falon who had worked with me on the harmonic accompaniment. While the Bernstein family was fine with this, the legal team of the Bernstein estate felt that it was clearly all Lenny’s writing. Actually a nice compliment, but after an explanation to them, the shared copyright remained as it was. I’m sure, were he alive, that Lenny would have supported this action. For me it is a sentimental piece in memory of a great musician and friend.
JR: Please describe what you have learned about sound production from your teachers, your students and the research you have done.
RBO: Leonardo da Vinci is really the one who discovered how fluid dynamics effect the columns of water and air. A clarinet is basically a tube. The sound starts at the point where reed vibrates and the speed of the air column accelerates through what I call the “velocity aperture”, inside the mouth. What is often overlooked and is so vital to producing a sound for clarinet, oboe, saxophone and other woodwinds is that the vibrating reed takes place inside the mouth. The size and shape of the oral cavity as the resonating chamber which, to a great extent, physically forms the sound that comes out of the horn is of key importance. So that means that the oral cavity is an important variable. Additionally, If you have a large opening at the back of your tongue, (the oropharynx), and a very small opening at the tip of the tongue where the mouthpiece/reed aperture is, you will have a huge effect on the velocity of the air stream and the quality of the sound. This is extremely important in control and tonal production. One reason why the double-lip embouchure is so effective in the creation of the sound since it helps to create a larger chamber inside your mouth by reflexively raising the soft palate in the back of the tongue. Marcellus did this by effecting the double-lip advantages without playing double lip. You actually can hear the change in your speaking voice by just pulling your upper lip back while speaking. Try it. The voice becomes deeper and a bit more resonant in quality. With speaking the vocal chords are vibrating inside the larynx. With the clarinet it is the reed vibrating inside the mouth. This is a way to get a warmer, deeper and richer sound, and it is the basis of my teaching sound production. With students, I’m always happy to talk about jazz techniques and chord changes etc. but that is icing on the cake. What I usually hear in student playing is that something is lacking in the sound. Once we get that optimal sound one can take it from there. Having a bad sound is like having no electricity in the factory. Nothing much works. Nothing moves.
JR: Do you ever sleep? You are a novelist, a composer, a player, a world-renown Periodontist, a scientist, you have connections with Italy. How do find time to do all of this?
RBO: I’m actually a bit uncomfortable hearing this list of accomplishments because I really don’t feel I can take credit for them. I have a certain amount of DNA from my parents. My mother a supposed non-musician could solfeggio any melody she heard and frequently entertained us “solfegging” commercial jingles or some of Charlie Parker’s solos on records we frequently played. I grew up in a warm and wonderful Italian family with a grandfather who had attended the University in Rome for twelve years, a doting Italian Grandmother both of whom lived in the house day in and day out with us. My grandfather spent two hours a day teaching my brother and me proper use of the Italian language, with which I became very familiar as a child. My father was a devoted grammarian, a Yalie and a very, very smart guy. He insisted on our using language properly. My grandfather was the same, and my grandmother spoke nothing but Neapolitan dialect. So I grew up speaking three languages–formal Italian, Neapolitan dialect and English. To me it was all one language dependent upon who was speaking or listening at the time. I absorbed those sounds as a child.
My father was a very strong influence on me and my family supported me 1000%. I remember that at the age of 12 I interrupted my father while he was practicing oboe and stated that I wanted to paint. He immediately took me to an art supply store for materials. When the shop keeper asked if I wanted to paint in watercolors or oils, I had no idea. He labeled me a watercolorist sent us home with the proper supplies. I was painting within the hour. So, when people say I’ve done a lot in life, I think of the true Renaissance man, da Vinci the true genius who did whatever he wanted to perfection. People ask me what my secret is. There is no secret. It is just that I always want to do creative things. When I engage in creative activities that are satisfying, I am happy. I think this may be a very significant aspect of life for all of us. I once wondered what it was like to write a novel. No one ever told me I couldn’t do it. It was just like the fact that no one ever told me I couldn’t play the Rhapsody in Blue glissando when I first picked up the clarinet. I think that 99% of the people we know have this yen for creativity, but most rarely follow up on it. That problem may start at school where you are too often told what you do not know and that you can’t do something, it is either very difficult or that you mustn’t do it. The great innovators in life have simply ignored that. The answer I usually give to this question is that I don’t sleep much, but that is not true. It’s my way of avoiding the long explanation that I would have to do to answer it truthfully.
The bottom line is I can’t take the credit! I’m really not comfortable doing that, but I thank you very much for thinking that I should. I’m proud of what I have done, of course, but I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who have been very supportive, especially by my wonderful wife and family. I often spend three or more hours a day playing clarinet, and I spend a couple of hours a week playing duets with a friend. I find myself writing music, and I have half of a second novel in my head. I also love to copy classical paintings. I have half of a Vermeer copy done in my art studio at home. I’m always motivated very strongly by creative activities every single day and if I’m not, I’m not a happy camper. This points out what I said before. One’s life can be defined by doing what you love to do and by making sure you are doing your best at it. For me, it’s what makes for a good life!
JR: That must be a secret of your longevity. You are healthy, you are doing well, you are vibrant, you are creating every day; what a receipt for success.
RBO: That’s why I say I’m the luckiest guy I know. I’m also probably the happiest person I know. At this point in my life I’m closer to Good-Bye than Hello and it makes me feel like every day is a very significant time. Every minute deserves your full attention.
JR: Let’s talk about improvisation. I learned to improvise before I could read music. Do you memorize chord changes in a jazz tune?
RBO: Yes I do. I also grew up learning to improvise before I could read music. That’s the best way to learn. I still like to put on a Music Minus One CD where just the changes are played, without knowing what the tune is, and 99% of the time I can identify the tune and play solos. Zoot Sims didn’t care much about chord changes, but even if he did, he didn’t need them to play. Stan Getz is one of my heroes. I just figured that he knew all the substitute chords and all the variations in the upper reaches of the chords since he plays them so creatively in his solos. In reality, I was assured by one of his favorite accompanists that he needed to hear the basic triads (root-3rd -5th), and the rest was simply him. He was doing exactly what you described. You’re selecting notes that sound good with the harmonic background and you have an ear that automatically selects the best notes to create a melody. The label doesn’t matter at all. But it is useful in communicating the process to someone who doesn’t know how to do it. Of course ultimately the more you detach yourself from any cerebral or intellectual self and just let your heart and your ear guide the way, the closer you are to the real creative music in playing jazz. That may apply to all musical expression. It is all singing.
JR: How did you develop the Ron Odrich sound? How do you develop your personal sound and avoid simply copying someone else’s style?
RBO: I went through a period of time when I wanted to sound like Bob Marcellus and one when I wanted to sound like Bonade and Buddy De Franco. Every teacher influenced me in personal ways, but I came to my own sound in my use of vibrato. I gave a lot of thought to the vibrato that alternates the crescendo and decrescendo of a note. This is usually called the diaphragm vibrato, but it has a lot more to do with other things than the diaphragm. Instead it is a pulsating vibrato of loud and soft volumes. I combine that with a pitch vibrato and coordinate the two of them–volume and pitch fluctuation. This creates a spinning and gorgeous continuity of the sound. My personal sound depends on the feeling I get when I use both vibratos to create a spinning sound. Then I discovered that it is possible to keep that spinning feel with no vibrato. It is the feeling that most pleases me. I’m not trying to sound like any particular person. I’m trying to please myself. The resonating chamber in my mouth creates this sound and it feels very pleasing. I strive to avoid its being strident or dull. There are a lot of dull sounds or sounds that are too dark for my taste. I call it dark, darker, darkest and then mud….a sound without any resonance.
JR: This should be in your next scientific article in The Clarinet. It seems to be extremely important to the development of a great sound on the instrument.
RBO: Yes. I think it is important. I used to work with Clark Terry a lot, and I wondered how his vibrato sounded so shimmering, silky and beautiful. His vibrato allowed him to just sing through his trumpet. I think my vibrato comes from him through all the years I played with him and listened to him. It is a volume and pitch vibrato. I think that he developed it consciously. He got so that he could produce it whenever he wanted. It takes practice, but once you get that feel you recognize it and you get kind of hooked on it.
JR: What happens in your daily practice sessions?
RBO: I have a practice routine. Chromatic scales, thirds, scales major and minor up to High C and back down, arpeggios, whole tone, diminished scales and diminished and augmented triads up and down. The usual. If there is difficulty with the side keys I’ll slow it down and work it slowly. Sometimes I’ll put a metronome on and play a tune. Then I’ll work on what is coming up. Also I’ll work on very slow vibrato. I admit that I’m somewhat of an equipment freak. I have Bob Marcellus’ last Bb R-13 Buffet clarinet, (a 95,xxx serial number, which is a great clarinet), and the A clarinet from the Mozart recording, and I have his mouthpieces, and I can tell you now that Bob’s sound was not a result of only the instrument and mouthpiece. Bob himself was the principal factor in the generation of his sound. But I have that equipment and I can use his Cicero Kasper with a 3 and1/4 strength soprano saxophone Léger reed or my current favorite the European cut signature Legeres. They are the most vibrant and sound more like cane to me. They come with nearly complete consistency, which is great.
Mainly I’m playing a Richard Hawkins B-Series mouthpiece, which combines all the best attributes of the Kaspar mouthpieces. I love the Kasper ligature also, but for me, the ligature is perfect because my chin sticks out further than my upper teeth, so when I play I can have the clarinet down near where I want it. I would need to get my chin reduced to get the clarinet where I really want it. The mouthpiece touches my chin. It actually sits lightly on my chin as a fulcrum and the upper part of the mouthpiece leans in very close to the upper front teeth. I also use a strap so I have very little weight on my right thumb. I have my students try the strap without holding the clarinet and have them play an open G, just exhaling into the instrument. I have found that this is the best way to explore how breath control works. It’s not blowing, it is exhaling. Take a deep breath, expand your chest all the way both front and back, and just rest and sit on that compacted air. What comes out is your exhaled breath that you modulate by putting your tongue near your upper front teeth and pulling your upper lip back which naturally raises the soft pallet. This creates a feeling of almost detaching the column air from the process. It’s like a machine that has compressed air that is just coming out rather than pushing. It is not blowing. You can push if you want to be louder, but you don’t have to. It is simply letting the flexibility of your chest and abdominal muscles do the job. It is not only your diaphragm. The diaphragm expands and pushes against your abdomen and your chest opens up on the inhalation. Then it just relaxes and the intercostal muscles and a whole group of auxiliary muscles take over and work by flexibly recoiling back to the way they were before. But that’s not the way you hold the long tone or the way you play Pines of Rome or any excerpts of Mozart or Schubert. One does not get that great sound from blowing. You get your best sound from monitoring your exhaled column of air.
JR: Could you address the aging clarinetist. What problems can we expect and how can we solve them? What do you tell a clarinetist who is slowing down, or one with a bit less dexterity, carpal tunnel trouble, or arthritis in the fingers?
RBO: Let me ask you a question. Did you hear Stanley Drucker in Knoxville? He is amazing. His hands are not young hands yet he can play with the virtuosity of his youth. I just don’t accept the nonsense about growing older. I think the more psychologically we buy into that, the more ridiculous it is. I think the most important thing you can do is to not slow down. One must keep moving and remain physically fit. You don’t have to be obsessive about it. Just keep in as good a shape as possible. I ride a bike. Some people walk. There are a lot of things you can do like lift weights. I feel that the talk about slowing down is nonsense. Saying that you are not able to do it because you are older is simply not true at all. Yes, there is a phenomenon that happens as we get older and genetically there is a system that we have little control over, but at the same time, as we are often told, decline is inevitable, that belief is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you believe you can’t do it you are using that thinking as a cop-out. There are things we played at the age of 19 that are not possible today, of course. Once when I played a recording for Bob Marcellus of a passage with thousands of fast notes that he had recorded in his youth, he just looked at me, wry smile and said, “Young fingers!” It is true, but we must not feed into this aging decrepitude mindset because it will hold us back.
JR: Let me ask you about ensemble playing over a long time with the same people and lifting and trading ideas in the heads and on the solos. I have been lucky enough to play with the same quartet for about 30 years, and we have learned to think exactly alike and know intuitively what each of us are going to play. As a result, the ensemble sections are often more fun than the solo parts. You have had that delicious experience of working with the same musicians year after year, decade after decade. There is no experience like it, is there?
RBO: No there isn’t, because you are talking to each other all the time in music. I’m playing with Gary Mazzaroppi on bass, Paul Bolenback on guitar and everyone has ears. Usually, by trial and error, some luck, and over a period of time you can end up playing with people you really like to work with. That’s one of the secrets really. Music is especially important because you wind up with people who listen the way you listen, and you can exchange ideas and play choruses with people and experiment a good deal. It is a wonderful experience that can be shared with special musicians. I cannot imagine a life without music.
[i] Science in the Art of the Legato, 44, No. 4 (52-56) Sept., 2017
ABOUT THE WRITER
Jerry Rife is a clarinetist, author and conductor in the central New Jersey area. He is a professor emeritus of music at Rider University in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where he taught music history and theory and was the director of bands. He also was the chair of the Fine Arts Department and director of the Everett R. Matson Center for Single-Reed Mouthpiece Refacing at Rider University.
I SIMPLY LOVED THIS INTERVIEW.
Ron has been one of my favorites for a long time and I always wanted to know more about him. I have used his MMO and Jamie Abersall albums for years and every day I wish that I could play and be like him. The clarinet is a challenging instrument, but those of us who have stuck with the thing, have found it to be very rewarding, and virtuosos such as Ron provide us with the example and inspiration we need to keep going.