Afterthouhgts

Par Rittsel 2009

Is my opening statement on this site relevant? That Stan Hasselgard was about to bring the clarinet into the realm of bebop? Yes and no.
Yes, he absorbed the new music in 19471948, both the bop chords and the cool voices from the Tristano school. He was able to show Benny Goodman some chords and licks from the new school. He knew and/or played with boppers like Wardell Gray, Fats Navarro, Max Roach, Barney Kessel, Dodo Marmarosa and others.
But – and there are two buts – it never went further than to a bop flavor. And Goodman’s choice of players like Wardell, Stan and Mary Lou Williams was rather cautious. The were essentially swing musicians with a boppish tinge. Stan as a younger Goodman, Gray as a younger Lester Young. There were of course two short moments when Fats Navarro and Red Rodney joined the band.
And the clarinet never made it into bop. With the few exceptions of Buddy DeFranco, Tony Scott and Putte Wickman. The clarinet was of course well fitted for the rapid tempos the boppers favored, but it’s tone became too thin, too cold, in the modern style. This said without downplaying the works of the three mentioned. Tony Scott’s Swedish recording of Night in Tunisia from 1957 might be an exception, but he plays with a rawer sound than the other’s precise, academic approach. He then went looking for other musical worlds.
And when saxophone players like Al Cohn and Zoot Sims played clarinet duets, they limited themselves to traditional, down home blues with a lot of the inherent chalumeau, wooden qualities of the instrument. In general, saxophonists tend to play the clarinet with a less academic approach, a more reedier approach – Zoot, Al, Phil Woods, Arne Domnérus … In addition, it would take someone with the power of Sidney Bechet to make the clarinet heard, let’s say, together with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker.
You may even agree with Stan's friend, the jazz critic Carl-Erik Lindgren, who wrote that the American recordings that Stan was not really rooted in his "new" style: "It's not Åke playing, not the Åke Hasselgård who's peak occurred at home with the recordings of All the things you are and Somebody loves me" (on  Musica 1946-47).
Anyway, there is no answer. Just beautiful hints when that cool nordic sound and the breathtaking phrases meet the new challenges.

Was Benny interested in Bop? No. He disliked Mary Lou Williams’ arrangement of Lonely Moments in 1946. He hired youngsters as Stan Getz, Jimmy Rowles, Ralph Burns and Chico O’Farrill. The big band he started to build in November 1948 included Wardell Gray, Fats Navarro (who was sacked after arriving late at three rehearsals) and Stan Hasselgard (who died). The  recordings that exist reveal a few bop arrangements – with "Goodman solos wholly out of place" (James Lincoln Collier). Two years leater, Goodman said: "Bop is on the way out in America. And you know, I have never liked it".
Collier answers my question in his Benny Goodman and the Swing Era (1989) with: "Not much. He never uses the so-called alterd chords... Nor does he reach for any of the complex shifts in meter... His playing remains firmly in the swing system. However, he is playing far fewer of the bent notes, growls and other devices of the hot palying... the bop revolution probably enforced... a more relaxed, less impassioned style."

This in contrast to a four year older band leader, Earl Hines, who welcomed Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker into his big band. Let me tell you a story that don't belong here but somehow needs to be told. As a teenager, I spent a night listening to Ray Nance talking about his life after an Ellington concert in my home town 1963.
He and Earl Hines used to meet after work to hit the bars in Harlem. One night they stumble upon Charlie Parker in a small club. The listen and walk away in silence. After a few blocks they stop, look at each other and say "did you hear what I heard?  We must be drunk." Impossible, they said and decided to return the next night – sober. It was just as astonishing, and I guess that's how Parker was hired by Earl Hines.

A French Quintessence 2 CD album with a few Hasselgard/Goodman tracks
(already published) and Stealin' Apples with Navarro/Goodman
(Quintessence FA244). A Fats Waller tune, revamped into an unison bop line, where Benny actually seems to remember Stan's playing, Wardell plays a rather conventional solo and Fats contributes with a muted, understated boppish chorus.
You will also find the tune in the exellent 4 CD Properboxes; The Wardell Gray Story and The Fats Navarro Story: