The following review appeared after a live performance of The Clarinet Choir May 24, 2002 at the "Cool and Crazy Jazz West Coast Party":
The Clarinet Choir, his (Fischer's) most recent project, consists of eight clarinets, augmented by two brass instruments and a rhythm section. Certainly, many of his previous recordings have made effective use of woodwinds, i.e., Whose Woods Are These from the late '70s. In this case, the emphasis is on the clarinets. Since the clarinets have to cover a very wide pitch range, they are further subdivided into different types of clarinets, consisting of four Bb clarinets (Gary Foster, Don Shelton, Jim Ercole, John Yoakum), one alto clarinet (Jeff Driskill), two Bb bass clarinets (Lee Callett, Gene Cipriano), and one Eb contrabass clarinet (Bob Carr). In the rhythm section were Fischer on electric piano, Brent Fischer on bass and Dick Weller on drums. Finally, in the brass section he featured Steve Huffsteter on mellophone bugle and Les Benedict on trombone. Gary Foster also played flute and alto sax for occasional solos.
The title song is a little-known composition by Duke Ellington.
--William S. Sinclair
CALENDAR LOS ANGELES TIMES TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2003
A star turn for the 'secondary' clarinet
Clare Fischer's deft ensemble showcases the musical virtues of the woodwind.
By Don Heckman
Special to The Times
Clarinet players would have a hard time finding a better friend than Clare Fischer. At a time when the instrument - except in classical music settings - is largely relegated to secondary status, the veteran composer arranger is now providing it with an extraordinary showcase in the ensemble he calls his Clarinet Choir.
On Sunday at the Jazz Bakery, the 13-piece ensemble per-formed a program of Fischer's arrangements and original com-positions,delightfully displaying the instrument's musical virtues.
Most of the pieces were drawn from a recording, "On a Turquoise Cloud," with many of the same performers - including frequent soloists Gary Foster and Don Shelton, and the groups's two brass players, Steve Huffsteter and Les Benedict - present for the live performance.
Like Mozart, whose Clarinet Concerto and Clarinet Quintet established the instrument's primary aural template, Fischer realizes that the clarinet, with its three-octave-plus range, has at least three distinctly useful tonal registers. By exploiting the different qualities of those areas, enhancing his color palette by also including E-flat alto clarinet, B-flat bass clarinet and E-flat contrabass clarinet, his charts shimmered with a gorgeous range of multihued sounds.
On "Westwood Walk," for example, the clarinets were brisk and rhythmic in their dark-toned chalumeau register; in Fischer's transcription of Bach's "Air for the G String," the B-flat clarinets played the haunting melody in unison via the more penetrating clarion register.
Other tunes employed the full resources of all the instruments, from furry contrabass bottom to soaring high-note altissimo.