Piece of the Week 72: Three Blues for Clarinet and Piano

I wrote Three Blues nearly thirty years ago, and I dedicated each movement to a different clarinettist colleague at Colchester Institute, where I then taught. Each of these players had played professionally all over the world, and we were lucky that they also found time to teach clarinet to our degree and post-graduate students as well teaching in London music colleges.

My three pieces are not blues in the traditional sense, but they use some blues harmony – flattened 3rds and 7ths, etc – and some jazz-inspired rhythms. I’ve always loved writing for the clarinet – it has such a wide range of both pitch and colour, and can flexibly portray many different emotions.

I attempted to show something of the character of each dedicatee: Carefree Blues is designed to capture the easy-going character of Stuart Allen: Meditative Blues shows Charles Hine in reflective and sombre mood, and Agile Blues depicts Angela Fussell, who was always rushing from place to place in her busy life, and very keen on her students playing scales!

Having been out of print for a few years, Three Blues is now available again in a new edition available in print or digital download – please see here for details. It has been very nice to revisit them again, and to think fondly of its dedicatees, two of whom are no longer with us.  I also took the opportunity of revising the first movement by transposing it up a semitone so that it lies better under the fingers and looks a bit more approachable. A new edition of the version for Alto Sax and Piano will appear shortly, as well.

I also made a scrolling score (using a performance by both Charles and Angela, from 1997, with Angela’s husband Vivian Troon on piano), and you can also hear a performance twenty years later by Charles, with me on the piano. Hope you enjoy them!