Invisible Guy at Sugar Maple

Jun. 25, 2016
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invisible guy - photo by martin phillips 2016 (4)
Martin Phillips

The clarinet plays a decisive role in the history of jazz and American improvised music. In the context of early New Orleans jazz, the function of the clarinet was to contribute an ornamental obbligato that filled space left open by the cornet’s playing of the melody. Duke Ellington’s praise for his longtime clarinet man, NOLA native Barney Bigard, is illuminating: “He was invaluable for putting the filigree work into an arrangement, and sometimes it could remind you of all that delicate wrought iron you see in his hometown.”

The function and nature of the instrument also lent itself to virtuosic displays of technique. Skyrocketing arpeggios and flowing lines characterize the styles of great early clarinetists such as Sidney Bechet and Johnny Dodds and it is no coincidence that these figures augur the future of improvisation: recent musicological work convincingly demonstrates that many of Louis Armstrong’s revolutionary improvisational developments stem from his appropriation of clarinet techniques.

Clarinetist Ben Goldberg is part of this jazz tradition as well as its intersections with klezmer and classical music. Voted the #1 Rising Star Clarinetist in Downbeat’s 2011 poll, Goldberg has established his reputation as one of the most exciting figures on the contemporary scene.

On Sunday, June 26 at 7 p.m., Goldberg will be joined by Michael Coleman (keyboards) and Hamir Atwal (drums) at the Sugar Maple for the latest installment of experimental music series Option Milwaukee. The trio – Invisible Guy – specializes in a variety of experimentation that does not overlook the essentials, for, as Coleman says, “Melody is the knife that cuts through to truth.” The Sugar Maple performance is one of only two performances Invisible Guy will be giving in the Midwest. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear three of contemporary music’s most exciting visionaries.


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