April 2000

Harry Skoler
A Work of Heart
Brownstone Records

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.

Originally published in April 2000
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