Welcome to the JazzBariSax.com interview series, where we get to know some of the practitioners of the big horn. Up this week is Claire Daly. If you don’t already know of Claire Daly, you probably should:
“Claire Daly’s first CD as a leader, “Swing Low” (1999) is in the William Jefferson Clinton Library as a CD significant to him while in office. She has won Downbeat Magazine “Rising Star” 8 times in 10 years. Her most recent CD, “Baritone Monk” hit number one on the CMJ Jazz Charts, and rose to number nine on the Jazz Week Charts. It is sponsored by the North Coast Brewery, makers of Brother Thelonious Ale and all proceeds from the CD go to the Monk Institute for jazz education. She was the Jazz Journalist Association’s Baritonist of the Year in 2005.”
Why the baritone? Why not? I mean, if you don’t mind hanging 20-some pounds of metal around your neck and blowing air into it for many hours of your life, why WOULDN’T you play baritone? It makes a lot of sense to me.
How did you find your way to baritone? I worked my way down. Started on alto as a kid. Found the bari in my 20s. Never looked back.
Low A or Low Bb? I play low A Selmers. I had a low Bb Selmer, but it wasn’t a great horn. I think I could adjust to whatever I had to – I’ve just always had Selmers. I am not a big equipment geek. Find something that plays and play it. My setup is a Low A Mark VI and a Jody Jazz DVNY 7* mouthpiece. I love it. Before I got it I used a custom Phil Barone for 10 years. It was also a great piece. I have used Bari plastic reeds predominantly for over 20 years.
Anything specific to the baritone you recommend practicing? I’m a big fan of the longtones. They do so much for your personal sound, as well as opening up the horn, your breathing, your connection to the instrument, etc. I tell students: “If you do 15 minutes of longtones a day, your life will change”. I believe there is a meditative quality to doing them. Also, you can know everything there is to know about music, but if your sound sucks, nobody will want to hear you.
Tips for young baritone saxophonists? Best advice I ever got was “Just keep playing”. It’s worked so far. [George] Garzone says “Just keep the horn in your mouth”. I’m with him.
Favorite venue/place to play? Could be anywhere a good, musical gig happens. Sometimes the fancier situations have other pressures attached. I’ve had some great gigs in unlikely little spots. It’s the music more than the venue, and a great gig can happen anywhere.
Favorite recordings? I hate this question because it changes regularly. I love most of the bari players, and I love many styles of jazz music (and more). Just start googling. You will be led.
Baritones and airplanes? Bad combination, but so far, I’ve only had to buy my horn a ticket once. Twice, really, but I talked ‘em into refunding one of them. I take it on the plane with me. Andrew Hadro and I threw a party for bari players and every conversation in the house ended up on this topic. It’s our cross in life to bear.
Favorite quotes about music? “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”
When not playing music? I wish I had some other cool hobby at this point. I’m looking for one. Anybody? It feels to me like I’m always either playing, listening to, teaching or doing something music related. I’d like to even just be able to take a vacation. The other night I was walking home from teaching and jumped into a comedy club and saw Bobcat Goldwaithe (or whatever his name is). He was actually pretty funny. I’d like to be a comedienne, but I think it’d be like another music career. Lots of “uphill”.
Bonus Question: “A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?” I think the penguin would say “Quick! Run out of here before someone tries to give you a day job!”