Editor, Webmaster: Phil Cartwright Editor@earlyjas.org
|In Tune -- by Eric Seddon
Artie Shaw's chorus on "Star Dust" in 1940 is one of those rare solos jazz fans tend to list
among the most important ever recorded. His tone, choice of notes, and virtuosity all seemed
to coalesce in one lyrical moment, rarely matched since. Buddy DeFranco called it the
greatest jazz solo on record, and countless clarinetists have transcribed and studied it (this
Year later, Shaw revealed he'd used a plastic reed for the recording session--an ‘Enduro’
designed by Arnold Brilhart. In many ways the greatest unsung heroes of music history are
the equipment makers—without them, we instrumentalists make no music, and their
craftsmanship is directly responsible for the types of sounds we hear.
In jazz history, Brilhart is one of the important ones. A saxophonist himself, he created many
of the great saxophone and clarinet mouthpieces used throughout the swing era and beyond.
Among those he made were an Artie Shaw model, and a famous ‘Personaline’ model played
by Charlie Parker. His vintage saxophone mouthpieces, in particular, still fetch some
comparably high prices online. A close colleague of Artie Shaw’s, Brilhart even collaborated
on Artie’s “Clarinet Method.” But perhaps his most important legacy to reed players was his
pioneering of the synthetic reed.
Indeed, Brilhart’s Enduro reeds were perhaps the first commercially viable attempt at a
synthetic reed. They enjoyed a short heyday during the second world war, when French cane
was difficult to obtain, and were an important precursor to today's Fibracell, Legere, and
Forestone reeds. To put in perspective this breakthrough in equipment technology, Legere
reeds are now used by most of the top symphony players in Germany, and increasingly
among the top ranks in the USA.
Yet it remains an interesting fact that, for all of the success synthetic reeds have achieved
since Brilhart, according to New York based clarinetist Dan Levinson (who discussed it with
Shaw before his death) Artie only played on one Enduro reed ever. And at the time of his
death, there was only one Enduro among his possessions, which subsequently passed into the
hands of Mr. Levinson.
It's therefore almost certain that the reed used in one of the finest jazz recordings ever made
still exists. Mr. Levinson has kindly permitted me to reproduce a photo of Artie Shaw's #4
Enduro reed, almost certainly the very reed played in that iconic recording. Most cane reeds
are discarded as soon as they blow out or crack, so just about every reed ever used in classic
records are long gone. Coleman Hawkin's "Body and Soul" reed is certainly long lost, as is the
reed from Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert, or John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme."
But by an interesting quirk of history, that Artie decided to use an Enduro that day, we still
have the "Stardust" reed.
|Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning for
Jazz Advancement and Socialization