Ron Odrich -- not your grandfather's jazz clarinetist -- produced Blackstick in 1978 for the Classic Jazz subsidiary of Inner City Records, with several thoughts and ideas in mind. First off, it's a family affair, with brother Jim Odrich taking care of production chores and writing or arranging several selections. A penchant for the music of Gerry Mulligan is also pronounced as the woodwind player interprets four of Jeru's compositions. And in a unique ploy, alto and bass clarinet lines are overdubbed, adding to the richness of this modern jazz with Brazilian flavorings. Professional hired help include either Grady Tate or Bobby Rosengarden on drums and Harry Leahy or Gene Bertoncini on guitar, with bassist George Duvivier and percussionist Leopoldo Fleming heard throughout. At first blush the music might seem gimmicky, but overall is pleasantly rendered in short bursts, with more of a unison or point-counterpoint approach than pure improvisation or emphasis on solos. Of the tracks penned by Jim Odrich, there's "Afro-Disco" (which is accurately a funky samba), the simmering slow "Summer Day" with both clarinets in call-and-response mode, "Jaunt" with more harmonic emphasis in the upper octaves, "Brazilian Wood" in a lithe tropical mood, "Bisque-O-Dop" reflecting the cornier side of fusion with atypical wah-wah guitar by Bertoncini, and the chamber-like "Waltz." The Mulligan tunes include the hopping Latin-to-bop refrains of "Espresso," the immortal "Line for Lyons" with abundant harmonies and Leahy's duel with Tate, "Wood on Wood" featuring two overdubbed standard clarinets (no bass), and "Idol Gossip" in the fastest bop pace. One track -- Antonio Carlos Jobim's "How Insensitive" -- is a class project, with Fleming and the bass clarinetist joined by his sons David Odrich on guitar, Marc Odrich playing bass, and drummer Steven Odrich. While Blackstick has no lack of charm and possesses a defined sense of self, the leader is not all that distinctive, and though quite competent, he offered only two obscure follow-up recordings past this curious debut effort.
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