I was so elated to discover this CD (#39) in the collection because it was the final recording project of my good and longtime friend Masa Arao. For decades, Masa took care of me as soon as I arrived at Narita airport, bringing me a box of Raisin Bran cereal and milk (plus spoon and bowl) to insure that I was able to start each morning with my breakfast regiment. Being a clarinet player himself, Masa took full advantage of being at the recording sessions in New York to meet my clarinet teacher Kalmen Opperman and invite him to attend. Kal's arrangements of five Bach keyboard works for clarinet, viola, and cello turned out to be wonderful challenges for the trio and though I was nervous to have my teacher in the control room, Kal seemed relatively pleased with the result (he was ever critical of me, always expecting more).
The last piece I recorded, on the last day of the sessions, was the Chromatic Fantasia. My wife Lucy had just divorced me and I was in a pretty dark space. When the producer Phillip Traugott announced the end of the final take, I slid to the floor in grief. I remember Mika was still there and came out onto the stage from the booth to ask if I was all right. I didn't know then that this actually marked a new beginning for me.
"Variations on Goldberg's Theme and Dreams" evolved from the viewpoint of Benny Goodman's jazz quartet using clarinet, piano, bass, and marimba. My amazing son Peter John, actually being a jazz musician, saw the theme as melody with chord changes and each variation a kind of improvisation on the "tune." I framed the whole thing with a riff figure à la Steve Reich's New York Counterpoint, which he had written for me in 1985 and you can revisit on CD number 13. There is a story about that session with Steve I will tell you later!
"Ready for Eddie" was a blues I thought up while on the road with Peter John. When our Bach band had basically finished the long second day of recording I just prevailed on Masa to let the "tape keep rolling" and cajoled Pete and Eddie into letting me have a one-time-only, once-in-a-lifetime swing at singing my tune, just for fun.
This is also my chance to set the record straight about a "member of the Opperman Clarinet Choir." The bass clarinetist for the Fugue in D minor is Dan Kelly.
© Richard Stoltzman 2017
Recording: New York City, American Academy of Arts and Letters, June 23/24/26 and September 27/28, 2007
Producer: Philip Traugott
Recording Engineer: Tom Lazarus
℗ 2007 Sony Music Japan International