Take Five With Joseph David Howell

Joseph David Howell BY

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Meet Joseph David Howell:

Dr. Joseph D. Howell has gone from being a mostly self-taught musician from a poor small-town family to earning a Doctor of Musical Arts from a prestigious conservatory. Today he professionally performs, composes, and teaches music of many styles and instruments while maintaining an artistic focus on jazz clarinet and sax.


Clarinet, tenor sax, and others.

Teachers and/or influences?

Jazz Teachers: Jerry Bergonzi, George Garzone, Gary Pratt, Matt Harris, Rob Lockart, and Rick Helzer.

I knew I wanted to be a musician when...

I put two and two together and realized that I liked listening to jazz and was playing a jazz instrument in the public school band program.

Your sound and approach to music:

My natural instinct is to go for energy and density so I combat that by finding ways to take my time and to restrain myself.

Your teaching approach:

While having a plan in your mind somewhere is necessary (as well as automatic after years of experience), you have to be able to spontaneously adjust your preplanned notions to the needs and mannerisms of the student at all times.

Your dream band:

I like a lot of different kinds of stuff, but I think it would be awesome to interact with Wynton Marsalis, if ever possible. I like that he mixes the tradition with modernisms.

Road story: Your best or worst experience:

The time a key fell off of the contra-alto clarinet when I was playing with an wind ensemble seconds before I had to play an entirely unaccompanied solo. I hurried and motioned the nearest clarinetist to hold the key back in place while I played the solo!

Favorite venue:

I really love the vibe at the Eubie Blake Center in Baltimore.

Your favorite recording in your discography and why?

It changes so often that I'd have to change this answer every day and I don't want to get addicted to that.

What do you think is the most important thing you are contributing musically?

A good tone and some new harmonic things sometimes.

Did you know...

I love Indian food! And I also love listening and watching programs made by great comedians like Louis CK, Todd Barry, Ricky Gervais, Larry David, Doug Stanhope, David Cross, Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Nick DiPaolo, Sarah Silverman, and so many others.

CDs you are listening to now:

In the car, I've recently enjoyed these artists: Jerry Bergonzi, Benny Goodman, Buddy DeFranco, Sonny Stitt, Gene Ammons, and Rich Perry.

Desert Island picks:

Gene Ammons, Juggin' Around (Charly);
John Coltrane, Giant Steps (Atlantic);
Allan Vache/Antti Sarpilla/Ken Peplowski, Summit Meeting (Nagel Heyer);
Johnny Griffin, A Blowin' Session (Blue Note);
Louis Armstrong, Autobiography.

How would you describe the state of jazz today?

Unemployed or part-time for most.

What are some of the essential requirements to keep jazz alive and growing?

There will always be too many people playing it but we need more people who like listening to it. Unfortunately, it's not naturally accessible music for most.

What is in the near future?

More streamlining and simplifying my playing and repertoire selection I hope!

What's your greatest fear when you perform?

Having bad time or tone.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

"Taking a Chance on Love" (maybe) or one of Benny Golson's masterpieces.

What is your favorite song to whistle or sing in the shower?


By Day:

Music teacher, office worker, or whatever else I can get.

If I weren't a jazz musician, I would be a:

Fitness something.

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