Remembrances of music industry friends.

Joe Rabbai—A Man of Talent & Decency

On Tuesday, 8/11/20, the world of music lost Joseph Rabbai. Joe was one of the finest clarinetists, musicians, and people I have ever met. A musician’s musician who exuded an “old world” approach to treating people and respecting the art of music-making, he never lost his love for playing the clarinet, practicing, or listening to music during the 17 years after his retirement from his job as principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2003. And never once in the years that I knew him did he ever speak of himself or the many important positions that he had held with a sense of ego. Rather, he understood the role of a musician who was there to service the music in the best way possible. And he was totally devoted to his talented and loving daughter, Debbie Rabbai, throughout the years that I knew him.

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Lynn Harrell—Keep Going!

Lynn Harrell was one of the great musicians in American classical music over the past 55 years. Appointed as the principal cellist of the Cleveland Orchestra by George Szell when he was 20, he went on to have an illustrious career as a soloist who performed with every major world-class orchestra and as a chamber player. A multiple Grammy award winner, he was a prominent teacher at some of the world’s finest conservatories including The Juilliard School, The Cleveland Institute, USC and Rice. His recent passing on 4/27/20 at age 76 was a terrible loss for all lovers of music but it also recalled some of his great accomplishments. A friend sent me the following commencement speech that Mr. Harrell made some 26 years ago at The Cleveland Institute. In today’s pandemic world where the future of life and music feel in grave danger, the thoughts and observations he expressed back then resonate with greater importance today. I hope you feel inspired by the words of this master musician.

-Ed Joffe
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Larry Abel—A Musical Mensch!

On December 27, 2016, the music industry lost one its great artists and most ardent supporters, Larry Abel. Larry was 83 when he passed and is survived by his wife Shelley, sons Curtis & Steven, grandchildren Hudson and Chloe-Kate, and sister Sally. Larry was more than just my friend: he was a symbol of what was good about the music industry and humanity. From the first moment that I met him, I felt that I had met a friend and found someone who cared about music as much as anyone I had ever encountered and demanded that every job be treated with great respect and dignity.

I met Larry Abel in 1995 during the early stages of the Broadway production of Victor Victoria. I had been hired by a well-known Broadway contractor for the first time and was to play the lead reed book. Since this was the first time in many years that big Hollywood money was being invested in a Broadway show and because Blake Edwards and Julie Andrews were directly involved in the production, everyone was quite nervous. There were several additional important industry people involved with the production including Henry Mancini, Leslie Bricusse, Frank Wildhorn, Ian Fraser, Rob Marshall and the great Billy Byers. Continue reading 

Al Block—One of the Good Guys

On August 15, 2015 we lost Al Block, one of the wonderful woodwind doublers of the twentieth century who was 89 years old when he succumbed to pneumonia. Al had a distinguished career having played with the Sauter-Finegan Band, Benny Goodman, Boyd Raeburn, Artie Shaw, Raymond Scott, among many other big bands. He also participated in several legendary recordings including the Miles Davis/Gil Evans Sketches of Spain and Charlie Parker and Voices; played in numerous Broadway shows including the original productions of West Side Story, Gypsy, Cabaret, Sweet Charity, La Cage Aux Folles, etc; and was regarded as one of the better flute doublers of his generation. Al’s career was a successful one but not radically different from many of his New York colleagues who came along during the last great heyday of the music and recording industry in the 1950s/1960s.Continue reading 

Remembering Joe Allard

I studied with Joe Allard (12/31/10—5/3/91) intensively from 1971—1978. I believe I would have never had a career in music if I had not studied with Joe. While I could move my fingers pretty nimbly on clarinet and saxophone when I met him, I had no clue whatsoever about sophisticated and elegant music making at the time or how to play with line, regardless of musical style. Joe changed all of that for me. My first lesson was on a Friday night at 9pm at his Carnegie Recital Hall Studio. (I was his last lesson of the day and he had more energy than I did as an 18 yr. old!) I figured I would impress him by playing the Nielsen Clarinet Concerto. After a minute or so of playing, he said: “Let’s hear Mozart.” I thought, what have I gotten myself into?” Continue reading 

The Genius of Tom Nyfenger

Remembering Tom Nyfenger
Originally Published April, 2011
The New York Flute Club Newsletter

It has been 30 years since we lost Tom Nyfenger. His passing left a void in both the world of performance and in music education. It is not often that a world-class player is also a world-class teacher but Nyfenger was precisely that! He was that rare bird who could play at the highest musical levels possible and could also explain and defend every note in his interpretations based on sound musicological and physiological truths. Blessed with a phenomenal ear for hearing pitch and harmony, great inner rhythmic sense, enormous theoretical knowledge, and a brilliant technique, Nyfenger could detect any weakness in a student’s musicality. In addition, his pianistic ability allowed him to play the keyboard parts to any flute sonata or concerto and he would often demonstrate improvisational skills that would result in accompaniments to a single-line work at lessons. (He would often create piano parts for JeanJean Etudes or Telemann Fantasias on the spot.) Continue reading