Reviews - Two Ones

"It's nice when a little charmer like this sneaks up and pulls on your coat. The unusual front line, the casual nature of the tunes, the inspired notion of balancing the full-group tracks with the duo setting ... it all adds up to a minor jewel. If it gets noticed, Skoler should get busy with a follow-up."

- Jim Macnie, DownBeat

"Two Ones - the title of clarinetist Harry Skoler's fourth CD - clearly alludes to the musical rapport between Skoler and vibraphonist/pianist Ed Saindon, in addition to referencing the way the album is divided into quintet and duo recordings. Skoler and Saindon have been working together for more than fifteen years and have developed a deep musical connection during that time. This album is a faculty-friend affair, with all five musicians on this date being faculty members at the Berklee College of Music, and Skoler couldn't have asked for more sympathetic musical colleagues to flesh out his mellow musical concepts here. The first seven tracks feature the quintet and while similar traits are found in all of these pieces, enough little differences help to distinguish many of the performances. The first two quintet tracks, "Leaves of Autumn" and "Two As One," establish the tranquil mood of the album with a warm blend of Skoler's clarinet, Saindon's vibes, and Matt Marvuglio's flute. "Alpine Sunset," an elegant waltz with Saindon on piano, features a bit more energy from everybody involved; both Marvuglio and Skoler deliver the goods on their respective solos. "Giorgio's Theme," the only tune with some shades of Brazil, benefits from drummer Bob Tamagni's grooves and bassist Barry Smith's stability and malleability. "Piazzolla" captures the spirit, mood and swaying vibe that its namesake created in his "New Tango" compositions and features some sensitive piano work from Saindon. "Silent Serenity" shows these musicians to be very flexible as they play with the tempo and demonstrate a keen rhythmic sense... The warm, pleasing sound of "Jenna's Voice" helps to make this a standout track and "Joyful Sorrow" which receives a quintet and a duo reading on the album, is exceptional. While the quintet version opens things up a bit, the duo interpretation distills the melodic essence of the song into a tender and beautiful two minutes and forty seconds of music."

- Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz

"An educator that has a lot of real world experience but still makes jazz for sitting down checks in with his 4th set as a leader with material that falls to the right of an ECM set but isn't stuck in an arts gratia artis groove. Light and easy but not lite, the music is expressive while not hitting you over the head. Nice listening date jazz that quietly does its thing in just the right measure throughout."

- Chris Spector, Editor and Publisher: Midwest Record

"...wonderfully lyrical CD"

- Chris Sheridan, Jazz Discographer, UK

"We inserted this CD into our player expecting to hear either Dixie or big band music featuring Harry on clarinet. Harry is spotlighted on center stage but he is playing more inspirational ballads like "Dad's Clarinet" and "Song For Jessy". The music is very pleasant and relaxing especially "Two As One" featuring Ed Saindon (vibes) and Matt Marvuglio (fl). Saindon (p) also shines on "Joyful Sorrow". Barry Smith (b) and Bob Tamagni (d) round out the quintet as they glide through fifteen selections. Ed Saindon composed the music alone or with Skoler."

- D. Oscar Groomes, O's Place

"You don't hear too much music with clarinet in the forefront and I always appreciate the smooth, lyrical tones you get from a really good player like Skoler. The production and recording values are beautiful and transparent. The level of technique is so good, you don't know it's there."

- Jeremiah Sutherland, BullFrogMusic

"Outstanding jazz clarinetist Harry Skoler's fourth recording as a leader is a collaboration with artist Ed Saindon (vibraphone and piano). They are featured in duo and quintet settings. Skoler and Saindon teach at Berklee College of Music, and each have authored numerous articles including a Down Beat article authored by the clarinetist. Ed Saindon has recorded with renowned jazz players Kenny Werner and Dave Liebman. Skoler and Saindon have collaborated on numerous recordings. For this CD, Saindon composed nine pieces, and five were co-written. Of particular interest on the recording is Leaves of Autumn, which is harmonically based on the standard Autumn Leaves. The playing is very musical and likeable. The quintet, featuring clarinet, flute, vibraphone and piano, blend to give the music a mood that is special and the duo tracks are filled with emotion."

- Rudolf Radnai, Editor; Record Reviews

"We reviewed Skoler's superb clarinet work way back in issue 29 ... Ed's vibes create a really mellow atmosphere through all 14 original compositions on this album, with a really strong jazz flavor. The rest of the quintet are featured on the first 7 tracks, then after cut 8, it switches to purely duo action (piano/clarinet) ... my favorite song was 7, "Silent Serenity", which is (actually) far from silent... yes, it's serene & mellow, but full of the vibrant spirit of life & the living thereof... Matt Marvuglio played flute on that track, & it's some of the most soulful wind I've ever heard blown - he literally paints sonic landscapes for your aural pleasure! I'm highly impressed with "Two Ones", & declare it MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for jazz listeners of all persuasions."

- Rotcod Zzaj, Improvijazzation Nation

"...(Saindon and Skoler) can finish each other's sentences, anticipate where the conversation is going and get there quickly. But, perhaps more important ... they do not fear the inevitable silences, which allow the sparse arrangements room to breathe, invisibly underlining the quiet serenity of beautifully enunciated phrases almost whispered in the listener's ear. The songs are lovely, lyrical and hopeful. The interplay between the two musicians is a well-understood, intricate dance."

- J. C. Lockwood,

"The music is sweet, original, superbly performed and fluidly executed. With its flawless technical production values, this "Two Ones" is enthusiastically recommended to the attention of all jazz enthusiasts..."

- James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief; Library Bookwatch

Review of track 'Piazzolla' - "Part of a sensitive, often poignant collection of ensemble and duo work featuring the all-too-often-ignored clarinet, this number could be the soundtrack for broken dreams. Without resorting to athletic displays of musical calisthenics, Harry Skoler uses his rich timbre to great effect, summoning bittersweet memories of intimate encounters from long ago. 'Piazzolla' is more about the veneration than the virtuosity, as the individuals lose themselves in an evocative group improvisation. Following Ed Saindon's somber piano intro, the ensemble falls into a dusky tango with an intense broodiness suggesting the suppressed passion of tangoists in a clandestine embrace. Frequently the soloists seem to be carrying on a dialogue, but they never trip over each other's phrasing, demonstrating a disciplined freedom and mutual respect. Both the composition and the polished musicianship on this piece do sufficient justice to the legacy of Astor Piazzolla, Argentine's innovative bandoneon player and composer. Hold your partner close for this dance."

- Bill Barnes,

"The tunes here are very impressionistic, almost like mini tone poems, reduced down to the minimum instrumentation required. They certainly shun the usual exhortations of much overwrought modern jazz music, and concentrate on melody and poignancy. This is very emotional music and it will probably create mind pictures of a pastoral nature when you listen to it ... it leaves you in a state of the blues that echoes in your head for many hours after."

- John M. Peters,

"Clarinet fans will want to pick up a copy (or two) of Harry Skoler's "Two Ones." The Berklee associate professor and Jimmy Giuffre-protege is again paired with his Berklee colleague, professor, pianist and vibraphonist Ed Saindon on his fourth recording as a leader. On the first half of the recording, these two virtuosos are backed by tasteful bass, drum and flute pla yers connected with the school, while the second half consists of duets. All of the songs are originals penned by either Saindon, or a combination of Skoler and Saindon and veer toward a more traditional approach, yet with a fresh feel. The results are pure magic, with exceptional give and take between two men who are very familiar with each other's styles and willing to complement one another. Saindon is truly wonderful both on piano as well as utilizing his four-mallet pianistic approach on vibes. Skoler meanwhile combines a clear, rich, attractive tone with a romantic melancholic longing. Hard to pick highlights because everything here is so solid, and as good as the quintet work is, it is a compliment that the duet half seems just as strong and enjoyable."

- Brad Walseth,

"The clarinet always has been cursed by players who make it squeak. The skills of ... Harry Skoler keep that from happening ... his playing is so good that isn't a problem. Skoler plays beautiful clarinet that sings through pieces that are in a type of jazz-sonata-form in their construction ... the playing is of such a high quality..."

- Bob Karlovits, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

'Two Ones' is the return to the recording world of clarinetist Harry Skoler, after more than a decade of silence. Skoler previously released three discs (Conversations in the Language of Jazz - 1995, Reflections on the Art of Swing, A Tribute to Benny Goodman 1996, and "Work of Heart" - 1999) that were very well received by critics as well as by the public. Throughout this time of recording inactivity Skoler has been dedicated ... on the one hand, to education at the renown Berklee College of Music in Boston, and on the other, dedicating himself to his family. Some might say this evidences clarity of values. In his return to the world of recordings, he has done so accompanied by a quintet of good friends that are also wonderful musicians (which need not necessarily go together) among which we must emphasize the great vibraphonist Ed Saindon. All the members of the band are professors at Berklee College of Music. The title of the disc "Two Ones" (close to the title of the track "Two As One"), gives the clue as to where this excellent disc goes. This excellent disc contains two discs in one; the seven first tracks are performed by the quintet, whereas the following eight tracks are duets between Skoler and Saindon, two men who have collaborated together many years and that are known very well. Ed Saindon plays both vibraphone and piano equally well. The title of the recording is a metaphor both on the individuality inherent as well as the teamwork. The fifteen tracks, all original compositions, are beautiful. The track "Alpine Sunset distinguishes itself with a groove that propels. This disc is an album to enjoy tranquility and peace."

- Jose Manuel Perez King,

"Harry Skoler has a beautiful clarinet sound, technique to spare and a host of ideas, which make his playing a joy to listen to. His partner in both composition and performance, Ed Saindon, is an equally skilled musician, who plays both piano and vibes with great excellence. There is an obvious rapport between them. They obviously play together regularly and it is from this kind of association that they develop this ability to understand one another, in terms of what comes next on the improvised solos. The playing of flautist Matt Marvuglio, bass player Barry Smith and drummer Bob Tamagni also contributes to the enjoyment on part one of the record; the second part consists of just piano and clarinet. The blend of flute and clarinet on part one is a sound not to be missed: it is just beautiful to hear. For part two, the duo part to the album, the mood changes to something more wistful than the Quintet offering. It is however equally enjoyable and both players perform with great sensitivity and feel towards the music. Harry Skoler's clarinet sound is even more noticeable in this smaller group setting; he really is a master of the instrument in every sense of the word. This is a record to put on your CD player and just let the music wash over you. It is interesting enough to command your constant attention, but relaxed enough to enable you to just sit in comfort, listen and enjoy!"

- Don Mather,

Reviews - A Work of Heart

"Throughout A Work of Heart clarinetist Harry Skoler displays an intimate, chamber swing sensibility that sings above a finely meshed group of musicians. Skoler is not interested in pyrotechnics; he is interested in the emotional nuances of ten carefully chosen compositions... Donn Trenner has arranged strings tastefully and affectively. He is also the pianist throughout whose solos and sensitive accompaniment to Skoler contribute significantly to the success of this recording. The guitarists, Garrison Fewell and Joe Lano, are notable for their concise, thoughtful solos often displaying impressive technique and swing.

Harry Skoler plays with a melancholy but hopeful tone that adds a poignancy... His clarinet sound has a deep, rich quality that is especially affective in the slower and medium tempo tracks. A Work of Heart is a meticulously thought through and executed recording. If you're a jazz fan who usually starts looking for the door when jazz strings are mentioned this recording might be the one to turn your head around."

- Mike Neely, All About Jazz

"Harry Skoler is a clarinetist who employs this difficult instrument with a gentle and loving touch. The Berklee professor evokes little of Benny Goodman, except for comparable agility and skill. Skoler's sound is elegantly supple and played mostly in a lush lower-register. The 10 tracks are performed in different musical combinations, adding vibraphonist Rich Margolis on two. But the main collaboration is Skoler and pianist-arranger-producer Donn Trenner, whose lineage ranges from Charlie Parker and Chet Baker to Lena Horne and Mel Torme. Their interplay is stunningly psychic, and their duets on "Don't Ever Go Away" and "Soliloquy" are absolutely exquisite.

This is a diverse production, with the addition of eight string instruments and a French horn creating a luxuriance of sound that complements guitarist Garrison Fewell (Joe Lano on two tracks). Three Latin charts spice the lineup, and there are two tributes to the late Bill Evans: his own "Your Story" and a Skoler-Trenner creation of "Goodbye Mr. Evans." A remarkable album that will stay in my current rotation."

- Patricia Myers, JazzTimes April 2000

"Harry Skoler's two previous Brownstone albums attested to his fondness for premodernist clarinet traditions, the joy he found in using his well-managed and disciplined reed instrument to "converse" and "reflect" on swinging verities. For his latest studio album, the Berklee instructor takes a different tack and employs strings and a French horn as a backdrop to the winsome, gentle side of the clarinet and to the equally endearing piano stylings of new friend Donn Trenner, the session's producer.

At first listen, Skoler seems to have succumbed to a bleeding heart. Stick with him though, and he'll likely win you over. On Jobim's "Don't Ever Go Away," the richness of his tone, somewhere between romance and melancholia, draws you into the music. The cheery assurance of his melodic variations in Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye" attracts, too. "Soliloquy," composed by Skoler and Trenner, sees him achieving lyricism with the exquisite clarity of his sound and the fluidness of his phrases. His playing on seven more songs, including a close study of Bill Evans' "Your Story," also rides an attractively relaxed level of expression that usually eschews mawkishness. Trenner, in years past an accompanist to Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and assorted pop notables, has the warm and sensitive touch needed to complement the clarinetist. He and Skoler go the duet route pleasingly on the Jobim piece and on "Soliloquy."

Guitarists Garrison Fewell and Joe Lano heighten the sense of quiet drama at the core of the session. Fewell is modest, expert and elegant, responding to the clarinetist especially well on "Portrait Of Daniel," another Skoler and Trenner composition. Lano makes a good impression playing on the south-of-the-border "Coisa Feita" and "Sophisticated Yenta," a second warm breeze with Skoler. Not least, the modest, intelligent charts from Trenner or Lano are handled deftly by eight sting players and a French horn player, Las Vegas-based hired guns who give the impression they actually care about quality mainstream jazz."

- Frank-John Hadley, DownBeat June 2000

"...everything works...when Harry Skoler whispers, you listen. ...Good title - this album has heart, and it works. ...Harry waxes sincere...Some rust creeps in, and it fits - you can tell the anguish he's in. But even in pain his beauty shines through, and his emotion is wonderfully big. Love is like that. ...Trenner is lush, and Skoler most tender. ...Harry's licks are emotional, and rest easy on the ears. ...The strings kiss your cheek. ...a fine album: if you like your music tender and have a thing for strings, you'll take this to heart."

- John Barrett, Jr., Jazz Improv Magazine

"Clarinetist Harry Skoler ... revels in tradition, and that's a good thing. Rather than chasing after a hard-bop revival or a smooth jazz/pop sound, Skoler plays it straight-ahead on "A Work Of Heart". Alternating swing-era-inspired ballads with lush orchestrated pieces, Skoler's sound is pleasingly timeless."

- Steve Graybow, Billboard December 1999

Reviews - Reflections on the Art Of Swing

"...this reviewer was bowled over by his purity of tone and innovative improvisation. Where has this man been all these years?"

- David Miller, Swingin' Down the Lane

"Truly excellent clarinetists know how to make the instrument sound sexy; Harry Skoler is definitely one of them...Skoler lays back, letting his clarinet seduce with purring trills that stretch the limits of human hearing. On 'Benny', ...Skoler plays a duet with vibraphonist Ed Saindon, showcasing his ability to pull the listener in with his sound. Here he doesn't showboat or barnstorm...the interplay between him and Saindon reveals something more cerebral and textural, like he was really playing it for Goodman. It's heartfelt and enjoyable..."

- Michael Bieber, Jazziz

"Harry Skoler's new CD is a thoughtful, intelligent, and loving bow to Benny Goodman and to his influence on all Jazz...It's a daunting task to play so many pieces of music that are emotionally connected to another instrumentalist and still make fresh and individual statements. Skoler has risen to the challenge and stayed true to Benny Goodman's spirit. He has also taken those same tunes and shown how strong both he and the songs really are...Reflections on the Art of Swing captures the feeling and energy of those days while remaining firmly based on today. It offers a new vehicle in a vintage spirit. I'm sure Benny Goodman is smiling somewhere. I knew Harry Skoler when we both attended Berklee College of Music in the late seventies. He has continued along a singular path of musical integrity that was evident almost twenty years ago. I am very glad to see his talent in such a showcase."

- Stan Bann, Jazz Now

"...this is a labor of love. And though Goodman's spirit peaks out from behind the phrases, it's clear that Skoler is his own man. Whether a roller-coaster ride through 'Handful of Keys' or a meditation on 'Rose Room', Skoler speaks confidently with a poignantly transparent and vibrant sound."

- Chuck Berg, JazzTimes

"There's nothing new about Benny Goodman small-group tributes. What's new about this one is how little the clarinetist, though working with familiar repertoire in a Swing framework, actually tries to sound like Benny. Harry Skoler has a discernibly more modern timbre than anyone from Benny's generation. Yet he never falls into the clinical-clarinetisms that occasionally afflicted even such luminaries as Buddy DeFranco. Strongly recommended."

- Robert L. Campbell, Cadence

"This is an album which should appeal to those who dig swing classics played with a fresh approach."

- Joanne Day, Jersey Jazz

"Skoler's quartet is tight...and has a strong sound grounded in the harmonic interplay between Skoler and vibraphonist Ed Saindon. Their romping arrangement of 'Flying Home' is stunning."

- Ken Franckling, UPI

"...Skoler plays flawlessly throughout...His beautifully contoured, well-modulated soft tone, his trills and tremolos, his fluency over the instrument's vast terrain are all worthy of commendation..."

- Jack Sohmer, Mississippi Rag

"Clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Harry Skoler, splendidly assisted by a world-class rhythm team, proves that he has somehow acquired the musical sensibilities of an earlier era on his Reflections on the Art of Swing: A Tribute to Benny Goodman."

- W. Royal Stokes, author, Swing Era New York: The Jazz Photographs of Charles Peterson and The Jazz Scene: An Informal History from New Orleans to 1990

"... a worthy tribute to the great master...Benny would have been proud..." "...absolutely gripping, taking the listener by the hand and heart through a caressing tribute to a great man and musician....the quartet deserve and reward dedicated attention. This is real music and it's great music."

- Matt "Rocky" Robinson, Northeast Performer

"The disc, Reflections on the Art of Swing, swings but also soothes, with Skoler and his cohorts displaying a high degree of musical empathy."

- Mark Cadigan, Worcester Magazine

"While the spirit of the great band leader is never far from Skoler's clarinet playing, it's the chemistry between the band, vibraphonist Ed Saindon, bassist Roger Kimball, and drummer Tim Gilmore, that makes the disc one of the most enjoyable of the year."

- Brian Goslow, The Worcester Phoenix

"Skoler is a skilled reedman...the group...has its own distinctive sound, reflecting the arranging skills of all four members."

- Don Farwell, Tailgate Ramblings

"...Harry Skoler shows his mastery of the clarinet on Reflections..."

- Andy Smith, The Providence Journal

"...good versions of Goodman...'Flying Home' is particularly strong ..."

- Bob Karlovits, Tribune Review

"Refreshing 'new,' old sound"

- Bob Parzych, WRTC

"I like this record a lot - just as good as the last one...Nice arrangements and lots of style."

- Jeff Holtz, WIUM/WIUW-FM

"Damn fine!"

- Seth M., KIPO

"Good reflection of Benny."

- Jessica Thomas, KKFI

"Wonderful recording."

- Catherine M. Gollers, KGNU

"Nice traditional sound."

- Bob Powell, West Virginia Public Radio

"I love Harry's music and can't wait to have him in the studio for an interview!"

- Julia Figueras, New Hampshire Public Radio

"Looking forward to getting Harry back on the show soon. I hope I can help you get him booked out here in the mid-west."

- Leigh Kamman, Minnesota Public Radio

"He plays a fantastic clarinet and has a fine quartet"

- Egon Staniok, Radio Jazz, Denmark

"When Harry Skoler plays you can hear him smiling. He infuses Benny Goodman's music with his own unique sound and energy. Benny must be smiling, too."

- Toni Ballard, producer/host Studio 3, WGNC-TV3

"Harry offers up another outstanding album, and a fitting tribute to the master, Benny Goodman."

- Marc Lemay, Local Music Showcase

Reviews - Conversations in the Language of Jazz

"This new compact disk by clarinetist Harry Skoler is quite unique . . . In this age of fusion and MIDI, Skoler's clarinet finds home base on each of these tracks. His Interpretations and solos take the listener back to the heart of jazz . . . Anchored by Kimball's and Gilmore's solid playing, Skoler and Saindon have produced an excellent CD."

- Mark Ford, Percussive Arts Society

"Skoler has a cool sound on clarinet...Ed Saindon blends well with Skoler while Kimball and Gilmore are fine in support. The result is a likable and quiet group sound... the performances are consistently tasteful."

- Scott Yanow, The Mississippi Rag

"Fortunately, there are still some artists out there who combine an understanding of the roots of jazz with musical talent to match. One such is clarinetist Harry Skoler. In "Conversations" Skoler puts it all together with meticulous rendering of classics... while the others (Saindon, Kimball and Gilmore) do accompany Skoler's solo work, they also stand out as truly talented individuals, creating a musical consensus. This recording is a conversation among four musicians whose instruments speak for them."

- Tom Hall, Portsmouth Herald

"Skoler displays a mastery of his instrument and a sweet, laid back attack. Contributing to this refined atmosphere is vibist Ed Saindon, who complements Skoler beautifully, most notably in the interplay on the extended title track original. If you enjoy delicate and sweet music, this disk should rate high."

- Sid Gribetz, JazzTimes

"...the sound is sweet, melodic, and solidly swinging. The interplay between clarinetist Harry Skoler and vibist Ed Saindon is intricate and playful anchored by the solid rhythm section of Roger Kimball on bass and Tim Gilmore on drums."

- J.C. Lockwood

"This gently swinging set is easily enjoyable. It is to Skoler's credit that, even on the Benny Goodman associated material, his own musical personality shines through. There is no question that Harry Skoler is his own man."

- Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene

"Skoler is a player on the move, he's ready and armed. A good collection of tracks, Conversations... should definitively bring a wind of opportunities to this artist."

- Dante Ferrarini, New England Performer

"While the rest of the jazz world seemingly runs toward the crossover line with alto saxes armed and ready for the next commercial oodles of noodles fest, clarinetist Harry Skoler stands as a breed apart. A perfect cabin fever album... Conversations is imbued with a kind of restraint that has a laid back charm all its own that's very, very listenable. File under cool."

- Cub Koda, CD Review

"The conversations between soloists are the heart of this disc. There is real interaction between the musicians, not just everyone reciting his part and soloing when the time comes."

- Robert Tate, Jazz Now

"Who is Harry Skoler, and why is he making such beautiful sounds on the clarinet? Mr. Skoler possesses great tonal beauty. There is a definite 'chamber jazz' feel at work here. 'Refined', 'sophisticated', and 'gently swinging' are other words that spring to mind. The title track ably demonstrates the levels of sophistication and intimacy that can be attained in a quartet setting like this. Discriminating music lovers, I urge you to make room in your collections for the effort of Messieurs Skoler and Saindon."

- J.0. Spaak, WWUH Jazz Radio News