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Clare Fischer | Jazz Pipe Organ Encounters

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Jazz: Piano Jazz Jazz: Bebop Moods: Type: Improvisational
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Jazz Pipe Organ Encounters

by Clare Fischer

Combining the power of the organ with the inventive nature of Jazz improvisations.
Genre: Jazz: Piano Jazz
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Jazz Toccata in C Minor
7:03 album only
2. If
4:25 album only
3. Autumn Leaves
7:22 album only
4. I'll Take Romance
6:35 album only
5. Cherokee
10:43 album only
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Clavo Records - CR201911
Album art by Ruth Nichols (ruthtrumpets.com)
Original liner notes by Gene Lees:
About 16 years ago in Chicago, during my tenure as editor of Down Beat, Dizzy Gillespie told me he was going to make an album with a superb young arranger he'd encountered. He continued at some length about the scope and the depth of the young man's abilities.
Some time later, Verve released an album by Dizzy titled A Portrait of Duke Ellington. The orchestral writing was nothing less than brilliant, but, alas, the album gave no arranger's credit. The writing sounded like Ellington, yet not like Ellington, like Gil Evans, but not like Gil Evans. It was in fact apparent that the arranger had studied everything and everyone and then developed his own highly personal approach to writing. Unable to reach Dizzy by telephone, I set out to find out who had done this remarkable writing. It turned out to be the young man about whom Dizzy was so wildly enthusiastic, and this time I did not forget his name: Clare Fischer.
Clare was at that time chiefly known as the pianist for the Hi-Lo's, the superb vocal group out of which the even more brilliant Singers Unlimited group developed. The Gillespie-Ellington album provided convincing evidence that he had one of the most original and advanced compositional minds in jazz. Where did it come from?
Clare was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the American heartland, of German ancestry. He studied piano when he was nine and ten years old, and then -- this was during the Great Depression -- his studies came to a halt. But music remained his preoccupation, partly because his older brother, Stewart (today an arranger and music educator), kept him exposed to jazz. Eventually, Clare enrolled as a composition student at Michigan State University. He was so hesitant about his piano playing that he registered "cello as his major instrument." Only after a year or so, and after getting straight A's in piano, did he make piano his major instrument (with clarinet as his minor). He was graduated (having received A's in almost everything) cum laude in 1955. Two years later he joined the Hi-Lo's, and wrote the orchestral arrangements for their albums -- a role to which he returned when he and Gene Puerling, now the leader of the Singers Unlimited, collaborated on the recent MPS A Special Blend. After the Dizzy Gillespie album, Clare became increasingly well known as an arranger, and write several albums for Cal Tjader. For a time he traveled as the pianist of the Cal Tjader Quintet, and jazz musicians began to be aware of how brilliant a player he was with excellent technique, a rich harmonic conception, and the right touches of the influences of Nat Cole and Bud Powell. In the year since then, Clare has been one of the busiest studio musicians in Los Angeles, turning up on records as piano, organist and arranger; sometimes as all three at once. His writing ranges form classical music through jazz to current pops. For example, he has written the string arrangements of the last three albums by Rufus, the highly successful rhythm-and-blues and pop group.
Clare traveled to Villingen in West Germany with Gene Puerling to take part in the recording sessions for A Special Blend. Now it happens that Hans-Georg Brunner-Schwer, the owner and recording engineer of MPS Records, has in his residence at the Lake of Constance a pipe organ.
The pipe organ has been little used in jazz and there is a good reason for this. The organ pipes, or ranks, are usually at some distance form the keyboard, and there is a considerable time delay until the sounds gets back to the player. “On a normal pipe organ,” Clare said, “the lag is about half a beat behind, which plays hell with your mind when you’re trying to play rhythmic music. It makes it impossible to play jazz.”
But Brunner-Schwer has an organ that is specifically set up to overcome that problem. It has a four-octave keyboard which as Clare pointed out, comprises the standard baroque keyboard, and it has seven ranks. But the pipes are immediately in front of the keyboard, so that there is no time lag. Consequently, Clare was able to do things that neither he nor anyone else has been able to do on a pipe organ before. Note the powerful rhythmic playing in “Cherokee,” because of the physical setup, one can hear the mechanism of the organ opening and closing. This creates a curious and fascinating percussion sound at the start of each note. In places, the instrument almost sounds like marimba.
The result of those serene six days that Clare spent in Germany in October of 1975, are two albums (the one presenting Clare as a highly gifted pianist at Brunner-Schwer’s Steinway), that shows off the range, the beauty, and the versatility of this brilliant musician. Clare has the profound respect of fellow musicians, but this album, recorded under ideal conditions, should help him reach the wider audience so many of us the profession think he deserves.

—Gene Lees



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