Jerry Senfluk

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Richly talented Czech clarinettist whose playing is rooted in jazz, but whose influences are far ranging.
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b. 17 March 1946, Prague, Bohemia (Czechoslovakia). Senfluk’s pianist mother and cellist father encouraged his musical interests and upon taking up the clarinet he received private tuition from the principal clarinettist with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. His tutor was an admirer of Benny Goodman and his father brought home many jazz records from overseas tours; as a result he developed a deep interest in jazz and, in particular, swing era styles. When he was 12 years old he heard Edmond Hall during the veteran clarinettist’s tour of Czechoslovakia. Four years later Senfluk made his first public appearance, playing in a jam session at the International Jazz Festival in Prague. Senfluk continued with his studies, graduating from the Conservatoire of Prague in 1967.

By this time he had gained valuable experience playing with the Cats Jazz Band and the Jazz Fiddlers. In 1968 he began playing on Czechoslovak Radio and also became assistant editor of the popular music magazine Melodie. In 1969 he worked in both jazz and classical music, playing at the jazz festival in San Sebastian, Spain, and with the Orchestra Of The State Theatre in Aussig, Northern Bohemia. At the end of that year he moved to Berlin and toured Germany with a band supporting Albert Nicholas. In the early 70s he played in Germany, began teaching clarinet at the Steglitz School of Music, Berlin, and toured Germany and Switzerland with a traditional jazz band. He also visited London where he played with many noted jazzmen, including Fred Hunt. In 1974, together with his wife, Georgina, he opened the Coppelia Ballet School in Berlin. From the mid-70s he was active in Germany and the UK, mostly playing jazz but also developing an interest in the music of Brazil. At the end of the decade and on into the early 80s he led the Hallmark Swingtet in Berlin and worked extensively on radio and television in Germany.

During the second half of the 80s he was frequently to be heard in London and also began travelling further afield and, as a result, built an international reputation. He also played with Al Casey and Max Collie, and wrote arrangements for Eggy Ley’s show, Prohibition And All That Jazz. In 1991 he formed his Capital Swing band in London, with Mick Pyne, guitarist Nils Solberg, bass player John Rees-Jones and drummer Rex Bennett. During the mid-90s he continued to work extensively with this band, Martin Litton replacing Pyne after the latter’s death. He also played residencies in Switzerland and appeared at festivals in the UK, Spain and Germany. Senfluk continues to divide his time between the UK and continental Europe, and balances his repertoire between jazz, which is the dominant form, and other areas of music. Technically assured and possessing enormous flair, Senfluk’s clarinet playing is rooted firmly in the instrument’s great jazz tradition, but he is clearly a musician who listens to and learns from a rich and ever-widening range of music.