My concept for Baby Won't You Please Come Home was to make a "gumbo" using influences from each of the places I’ve loved—each of the places that have brought me to this point in my life and my music.

It all started in the 1930s in Oklahoma, which was an actually a hot-bed of jazz back then. Jack Teagarden, Chet Baker, Charlie Christian all came from there. My grandfather was a professional clarinetist and my grandmother was a professional violinist;  they met in the Oklahoma City Symphony Orchestra, established by the WPA.

I remember when I was six years old, mowing my grandfather’s lawn. He had me turn off the mower and said, “I think it’s time you learned the clarinet.” I had seen thousands of students walk in and out of his studio, so I was definitely ready. Though he was a jazz lover, he was first and foremost a classical musician. So I learned scales, arpeggios, concertos, cadenzas—a really good foundation of music. I still approach jazz from that foundation, trying to get a really pure, clear clarinet tone and using music theory to guide my improvisation.

When I was in junior high school, my grandfather gave me a set of music charts for a Dixieland band, one for each instrument. I put a group together and played at a local ice cream parlor.  Somewhere I’ve still got the newspaper write-up to prove it. Ever since then, I've had my own band–the Redwine Jazz Band. The name of the band has changed a bit, the mailing address has changed, the players have all changed (except me), but I’ve always got to have a band. Once the jazz bug bites you, you’re infected for life.

After living in Oklahoma for the first 20 years of my life, I moved to Louisiana—mainly because that’s where jazz was born. Oh yeah, also to get a master’s degree in clarinet performance from LSU. I recall driving from Baton Rouge to  New Orleans to jam with local bands. One time I decided I should set up on the street, you know, be a street musician. As I played all the tunes I knew, a bum kept riding by on his bicycle yelling “Find your own corner, man.” I put my hat out and got all of 25 cents before I decided my time was better spent in the practice room at college.

Right when I was starting to get some really good gigs in New Orleans, I finished my degree and decided, the conservative that I am, that I should get a job.  So I joined the U.S. Army Band and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. Actually, the jazz scene was better in Atlanta than it was in Louisiana! I really started to develop my jazz there, playing a ton of gigs—paying my dues, so to speak. When the time was nearing to change assignments, I decided to audition for the U.S. Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, a premier  military band.  Here, one of the perks is that you can stay in the band until you retire. This was the best move I ever made. I’m close to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore and even Philadelphia, places where work is plentiful and rewarding. So my clarinet's found a new home.

— Ben Redwine


Baby Won't You Please Come Home (#10632)


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