Daily Archives: June 3, 2022

The CHAMBER JAZZ CONSORT: TALENT DESERVING WIDER RECOGNITION!

Danyel Nicholas, clarinet, eyeglasses, cufflinks, wall hanging, inscrutable expression, table, chair. Location and occasion unknown.

It’s my pleasure to present a group to you, its members expert and passionate although not all that well-known, its instrumentation clarinet / soprano saxophone, viola, and double bass.

Some of you might say, “That’s seriously unorthodox,” and perhaps you’d be right since groups with this instrumentation aren’t the usual. But the question of “orthodox” instrumentation has long been shaped by players’ desires to reproduce a certain desirable sound — whether Bob Crosby’s Bobcats or Charlie Parker’s quintets. And, of course, the marketplace — music as recognizable reproducible product — was a driving force, so that the Benny Goodman trio gave rise to other clarinet-piano-drums groups.

But left to their own devices, musicians looked for other sympathetic souls who could play. Alto, clarinet, guitar, string bass? Sure. Cornet, bass saxophone, piano, guitar? Let’s go.

Hear for yourself.

Goodness, don’t they swing? — with such dancing rhythms, shifting tonalities, and an overall translucency. And the CONSORT is such a sweet triumph — its precursor is the Basie rhythm section — of complete unity and complete individuality all at once.

I’ll have another. How about something slightly more unexpected?

Why stop now?

What we loosely call “cyberspace” is like the grab bag at the children’s party: sometimes you get a neatly wrapped package of worn socks; sometimes you find a jewel.

I first met Danyel Nicholas (clarinet, soprano saxophone, and imagination) when he left a wonderfully articulated comment on a video of the EarRegulars. I wanted to find out who this thinking person was, and instigated a conversation, which led me to the videos of the CHAMBER JAZZ CONSORT, also featuring Micha Daniels, viola, and Roland Effgen, double bass. The video performances were a sweet ardent breeze to my sensibilities, and I asked Danyel to tell me where all this light-hearted expert fervent joy had come from:

Chamber Jazz Consort was formed after I came back from New York (where I studied with Mark Lopeman and, to a lesser extent, with the late Phil Schaap–history is a very important part of music as my favourite composers and even players tend to be all historic) wrote some arrangements and tried to re-vitalise my old swing band I had left behind and that John Defferary had kind of inherited but was no longer interested in. Those cats however couldn’t handle the amount of writing and detailed notation. Then came the pandemic and we decided to shrink to the minimum size. I had grown up “bilingual” in musical terms and always drifted towards substantial compositions (Jelly Roll, Ellington, Benny Carter) in Jazz. I am not so much interested in Third Stream as Jazz clearly already is a third stream, but I think form and instrumentation are not definitive yet, as many jazz musicians simply don’t have the time to study Lully or Schubert. I like counterpoint and try to write obbligato accompaniment that is not an organic version of band in a box. That’s why I am particularly fond of the EarRegulars and always relished the occasions when Scott Robinson played Trumbauer on a Sarrusophone.

I pursued Danyel a little more, saying that my readers — and I — wanted to know, “Where on earth did this fellow come from?” and got this witty reply:

What were I & where? That’s a tough one!——
In the 80s I studied composition and played piano, in the 90s lute and viol (in Frankfurt/Germany at Clara Schuman’s conservatory…) but played mostly modern jazz (clarinet & alto) as nobody here was seriously playing earlier jazz, or any early music for that matter, especially in my generation. I had however loved Ellington, Jelly, Henderson, or the Missourians ever since friends of my parents, when I was “knee-high to a duck,” gave me stacks of strange records they thought I might like. I did!

In the late 90s I published a book on “exotic” instruments for a museum and taught the clarinet. I also started to collect historic clarinets like the kind Bigard or Simeon used.

In the “oughties” I worked with New Orleans-style people (like Trevor Richards, John Defferary to name only those you might have heard of) and worked endlessly on mouthpieces. In the teens I tried to run a Kansas City-style swing band playing mostly for lindy hoppers, then, in New York, I met Mark Lopeman (playing lead alto with the Nighthawks that evening), took lessons with him for about 2 years (about 3 hours a week!) and realised that writing jazz was the right thing for me to do. Mark is the greatest transcriber I have ever met. And one of the finest reeds! Back in Europe I played with all sorts of musicians who would tell me they’d rather improvise because they didn’t care how the inner voices moved or how the instrumentation sounded. So I felt like Jelly Roll! Hooray!


During the pandemic (hardly any gigs for two years!) I rehearsed the Chamber Jazz Consort and practiced French music of the Louis XIV era.
I also try to keep the “Red Hot Hottentots” alive, an ancient German hot jazz ensemble (with Colin Dawson).


Next I might embark with Capt. Gulliver…

I don’t want Danyel, Micha, and Roland to embark anywhere except for a series of gigs, a concert tour, CD and DVD recording sessions, festival appearances. In the ideal world, they would be the “other” group on a concert bill with a chamber group playing Brahms and Dvorak.

Practical matters. Danyel’s YouTube channel can be found here. As I write this, he has a mingy eleven subscribers, including me. We can do better. And he has posted more than a dozen thrilling videos . . . with a broad imaginative reach. Here’s one I love:

I love this brave friendly wise quirky band, and want them to be better known. Tell your friends!

May your happiness increase!