Clarinetist Julian Bliss and his band are heading this year’s Emory Jazz Fest. Bliss, however, dedicates most of his musical career to classical music as a touring soloist and chamber player.
Bliss was an early fan of clarinetist Benny Goodman, who is the perfect foil for Bliss. Goodman was a legendary jazz musician and bandleader, but during his musical career, he wanted to dip his toe into classical. Classical composer Aaron Copland wrote his clarinet concerto for Goodman. That same concerto was the impetus for classically-trained Bliss to experiment with jazz.
“I was trying to put together some programs for Copland’s clarinet concerto, and I thought about the idea of having a few of Goodman’s tunes arranged to go with the concerto,” said Bliss in an interview with WABE's Lois Reitzes. “But me being me, my mind started to run, and before I knew it, I had an idea to do something more dedicated in the original style and started a band.”
That band is The Julian Bliss Septet, which will perform “A Tribute to Benny Goodman” this Saturday at 8 p.m. at Emory's Schwartz Center.
The majority of Bliss’ career is still dedicated to classical music, but for him, jazz and classical are not worlds apart.
“I think classical and jazz are very similar,” said Bliss. “To me you are improvising in classical music, you’re improvising the phrasing, the inflection, the dynamics, the character ... The only thing you are not improvising is the actual line or the phrase you are playing, and to me, that’s the only difference.”