Clarinetist Rod Cless, one of my heroes, died far too young. To most people, his is an unfamiliar name, encountered — if at all — in liner notes or on the label of a few 78s. But he had a beautiful bright tone and was a delightfully satisfying ensemble player. As a soloist, he had some of the surprise of Pee Wee Russell but his energies were more often quietly subversive: a Cless chorus sounded sometimes like an easy melodic paraphrase, broken here and there by logical chord explorations — but when it was through, it stuck in the mind as a compact invention of its own.
I’ve written about Cless here (this posting has four audio samples) and here is a reminiscence by clarinetist Paul Nossiter, who actually took lessons from Cless. And my friend Jim Denham has offered his own touching assessment, the very beautiful elegy by James McGraw, and four other audio samples here.
It’s easy to feel isolated in this world, so one of the nicest parts of having this blog is that people reach out to me. I’m in touch with a young woman whose grandfather dated Billie Holiday, and I hope to have more of that story for you in the future. And another benevolent reader — Nick, from the UK — found me and offered his own comprehensive audio collection — downloadable files — of everything Rod Cless recorded. These links, he mentions, may be taken down soon if not used — so let that be an encouragement to you to immerse yourself in Cless, and to have another spirit-friend in music lift up your days and nights. (If you encounter problems with the links, he bravely suggests that he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Here is what Nick sent to me. I think it’s a generous gift.
“Many years ago I gave a record recital to my local society on Joe Marsala. At that time I thought that I should do the same for another clarinet player, Rod Cless, but was surprised to find how little of his music was in my collection apart from the Muggsy Spanier Ragtime Band sessions. I wrote to my old band leader, an excellent amateur clarinettist, for help and he also had very few recordings by him! Many of the original records had not been reissued in Europe. I abandoned the idea and kept my eyes open for likely discs on second-hand record lists. By last August I had enough to give the recital.
I then decided to collect his entire oeuvre together using Tom Lord’s Discography as my source. The music has never been published in this way before. On a couple of the early sessions, he does not solo and may not be present but all is included. I had to use the internet for a few tracks to fill gaps. For instance, I have a Doctor Jazz LP (Signature 78s material) with the Yank Lawson Band but it omitsWhen I grow Too Old To Dream for no obvious reason as It is a good track. I found this on a blog, Jazz Rhythm, <http://jazzhotbigstep.com/24264.html > from a radio program on James P Johnson with guest commentator Mark Borowsky. Other material has poorish sound. Even some commercial CD reproduction is substandard, i.e.: Art Hodes Columbia Quintet. I don’t think that the originals could be improved!
Having got this material together, it seemed a shame not to share it. Apologies for the variable sound and file formats.
It has all been uploaded to Zippyshare which is a no frills site, which restricts file size to 200 MB:
Rod Cless – 1 ~ Early Years & Discography.rar (Size: 98.73 MB)
Hodes-1940 Groups.rar (Size: 190.05 MB)
Hodes-1942 Groups.rar (Size: 71.1 MB)
Hodes Chicagoans-1944.rar (Size: 164.21 MB)
Rod Cless – Small Groups (1943-1944).rar (Size: 149.38 MB)
KAMINSKY-1944.rar (184.8 MB)
The Spanier sessions are not included as I expect most people have them with alternate takes.”
May your happiness increase!