As we head into The JAZZ ROOM season 11 finale, we connected with upcoming guest, Janelle Reichman as she prepares to join us for a tribute to jazz icon and “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman. Janelle has performed around the world playing clarinet and saxophone with likes of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, and Doc Severinsen and his Tonight Show Band.
Q: I was reading that you got your start on the clarinet in middle school. What drew you specifically to that instrument?
It’s my belief that when children choose a musical instrument to play, it’s a very intuitive experience and decision – at least it was for me. I remember my teachers telling me that they really needed more cellists in the orchestra – they didn’t have enough. They sat me down with this cello and it just felt terribly awkward and all wrong. When I held the clarinet up to my mouth and got a sound I liked right away, I knew it was for me. In past years when I’ve worked with young students, I always encouraged them to pick the instrument they loved the sound of more than any other.
Q: What was and has been your motivation musically?
When I was growing up, I remember many times trying out different sports and just failing every single time. When I discovered music and the clarinet, it was such a gift. I thought: something I seem to be pretty good at, and I love to do too? I thought I’d won the lottery. I think my main motivation over all these years has simply been that I love to play.
Q: What has been your most memorable performance so far? I’m sure that with traveling and working with different bands and performers you have some interesting stories!
Two experiences come to mind. One, performing with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra alongside other clarinet soloists Victor Goines, Ken Peplowski, and Anat Cohen. It’s not every day you get to perform at such a prestigious venue alongside your heroes. That was special. And secondly, any chance to perform with Sherrie Maricle and the DIVA Jazz Orchestra is a treat. There’s nothing quite like it – joining fourteen other amazingly talented women jazz musicians and playing some serious swing and kicking some serious butt. I’m proud to be in that band.
Q: What advice do you have for other female musicians in the jazz world who are starting out or looking to break into the professional performance world?
I feel very fortunate to have come up in the very supportive and open-minded community of Ann Arbor, Michigan where honestly, the fact that I’m a woman was never even mentioned or talked about. I had the chance to do what I loved – to learn, to play – and nothing about it ever had to do with my gender. I’m thankful for that experience. Did I experience some sexism over the span of my ten years in NYC? Sure, of course. But my advice to other young female jazz musicians would be: pay no mind, pay no mind, pay no mind. If you have talent and you’re passionate about what you’re doing and you work hard, you’ll succeed. Period. The way I see it, it’s a waste of our attention to pay any mind to that stuff. We’d be better off focusing on the positives and on bettering ourselves as musicians and as people.
Q: If there were one musician from the past that you could have a one-night only performance with, who would it be and why?
If I had the chance to perform with a musician from the past, it’d be Bill Evans. I’d just want to space out on “Peace Piece” with him for hours on end. That’d be heaven. Now, if I had the chance to just listen to someone perform live from the past, that’d be John Coltrane. I wouldn’t want to perform with him – I’d just want to put my horn in the case and listen. Experience his energy. I can’t imagine what that would have been like to witness in person.