CD Reviews

Seth Kibel’s Newest Album Clarinetflix & Chill

Woodwinds extraordinaire Seth Kibel has received much praise for his stellar performances throughout the years, eventually becoming a highly sought-after performer all around the Mid-Atlantic region. He has recently released his fifth album Clarinetflix & Chill where five tracks straddle a variety of musical styles, offering much delight to the listener.

The recording is a collection of Kibel’s original compositions written in late 2021. He selected some of the DMV area’s top jazz performers to be a part of the project: pianist Ellington Carthan, guitarist Christie Macdonald, bassist Eliot Seppa, and drummer Joey Antico. In early 2022, the group came together at the Blue House Live audio/video facility in Kensington, Maryland to start the project, and found that within only a couple of hours they had a finished product – a testament to each musician’s professional capabilities. The recording was done “live” as the entire ensemble recorded together in the same room without any headphones, overdubs, or any other studio activity.

The album opens strongly with the jovial “Rapid Test.” Kibel plays a tuneful melody on clarinet then immediately unleashes a blazing solo. Macdonald’s feisty guitar passages demonstrates her mastery, from blues licks to Django Reinhardt-style playing and smatterings of Middle Eastern colors. Drummer Antico keeps on course then briefly trades eights with each member of the ensemble, returning to tapping a steady beat.

“The Gaisin Shuffle” is a lovely Latin jazz/klezmer hybrid composition dedicated to the Ukrainian village Gaisin, where Kibel’s grandfather was born and lived during his youth. Kibel says “As I was writing this tune… I was imagining him as a boy, [idly] sauntering around the village.” The track was released early, before the rest of the album, immediately following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, where all the proceeds of online sales were donated to the International Rescue Committee to aid Ukrainian refugees. $900 was raised for the cause.

“The Just Soul is a Light” made a strong impression on me for its uplifting and soulful melody. I also enjoyed Seppa’s expressive upright bass solo where on occasion he replicated motifs from the melody. This is a track that gospel fans will enjoy especially.

On the thoughtful jazz waltz “How Will I Know?” Kibel and Carthan share an exceptional chemistry. The introspective nature reminds me of The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s 1964 album Jazz Impressions of Japan. The album concludes with “Resolution Not Supported” where a relaxed melody rides atop a bouncing rhythm section. In this track, Carthan’s exploration of several melodic and rhythmic ideas reveals his possession of a wide-ranging arsenal of skills.

I attended the debut live performance of this album at An die Musik in spring of this year and was blown away by the show. As I observed in this concert (and in others of Kibel’s as well), there were many smiles and participatory foot taps from the audience.

Kibel has proven to be one of the best entertainers of our day. On top of virtuosic playing, he keeps his audiences deeply engaged by sharing interesting historical tidbits about the music he plays and by cracking witty jokes in between songs. Not to mention his famous “Disappearing Clarinet” shtick where he takes apart the instrument piece by piece and continues to play on it until he is making music with only the mouthpiece! If there is ever a recurring theme in any of Kibel’s shows, it’s this: Have fun.

The album is available only digitally, where you can listen to it on Spotify, Apple Music and Bandcamp. You can find the album here:

By Kris Belgica 

Kristoffer Belgica is Baltimore-based guitarist who plays in local Gypsy jazz ensembles Hot Club of Baltimore and Swing 5. He also leads the 27th Street Klezmer Band. After seven years of service in the U.S. Air Force, Kristoffer now studies anthropology at Towson University while contributing to the Baltimore jazz community. He has written several articles for the BJA newsletter.

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