[Dixielandjazz] Clarinet players, volume and King Oliver's band

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Mon Jun 11 08:53:55 PDT 2007

You are right about the Selmer big bore horns.  I have a 10 G and a custom 
Frank Wells mouthpiece and I have no problem with power but thinner reeds 
are not generally the answer because unless the mouthpiece is really open 
the reed will close when a lot of air is pumped through.  Also, high notes 
become a problem with sounding in the first place to awful intonation using 
a soft reed.  Notes above D (above the staff) are problematical with a soft 

Reed / mouthpiece / horn / player combinations are very tricky and many 
players just don't understand the dynamics of it.  I have been asked many 
times what mouthpiece I play on but it does no good to run right out and buy 
that mouthpiece unless you have the reed,  horn and facial structure of the 
player.  In my case on Tenor I play on a Wolf Tayne 9 with a 3 1/2 Rico 
Royal reed and a Conn 10M half nude horn.  Then you add my facial structure 
and the way I blow the horn with exactly how much I put in my mouth and you 
just might sound like me.  Knowing all this you might have an idea of how 
much I hate buying horns and especially mouthpieces.

The big bore horn makes the extreme high notes more difficult.  I have a 
problem on anything above E but I almost never have to go there anyway. 
Personally I find the extreme high notes of a clarinet to be not pleasant 
except for a fleeting run and would almost never be heard in a slow passage. 
As a result I just about don't go there.

A few years ago I was listening to a Dixie group that was pretty bad but a 
friend was playing clarinet who was a fine player.  I wanted to hear him but 
the crowd noise (350 people) was just too loud.  The people were all 
standing, milling around and talking eating and drinking beer.  I had to 
walk right up and stand in front of the clarinet player to hear him.  He was 
doodling in the low and middle registers and when he took a solo I thought I 
was watching a silent movie.

If that had been me I would have roosted in the high register and pumped a 
lot of air through the horn but I have a different idea about what should be 
done in that situation.

My friend is a true artist and I loved to hear him but I'll tell you the 
truth I wish there had been a mike on his horn that day.
St. Louis
----- Original Message ----- 
From: <confit at isp.com>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Saturday, June 09, 2007 6:00 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Clarinet players, volume and King Oliver's band

> Johnny Dodds played clarinet with Oliver when Doc Cheatham heard the band.
> Johnny was a powerful, full-toned clarinetist that could undoubtedly have
> been easily heard over the brass in that band.
> New Orleans clarinetists prided themselves on heavy, big, fat sounds, and
> achieved this by using mouthpieces that were very open and very thin
> reeds. Willie Humphrey used a 1 1/2 reed. Many classical players use a 3
> or 4 and mouthpieces with a narrow tip opening.
> Any clarinet player who is inaudible over a band or needs a microphone
> needs to change the setup they are using. It's that simple. Benny Goodman
> and Artie Shaw could easily be heard over their big bands without mikes in
> the 1930s and 1940s. Why? Big bore Selmer clarinets with big tone holes,
> wide open mouthpieces and thin reeds. Clarinets are not made that way
> anymore, because most clarinets are sold to classical players. I once
> compared a modern Buffet with a Selmer L-series from 1936. The tone holes
> on the Selmer are significantly larger.
> There's been a lot of discussion that the New Orleans clarinet "sound" was
> because of the Albert system clarinet. Personally I think that's all a lot
> of romanticized drivel.
> I believe there's a mention in the book "Hear Me Talkin' To Ya" that the
> Oliver band could be so quietly that you could hear the dancers feet over
> the sound of the band. In other words, they used dynamics, unlike the Lu
> Watters band.
> Regards,
> Chris Buch
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