Music transmission, a family affair?
The Selmer family of musicians
At Henri SELMER Paris, the transmission of knowledge and passions has always occupied a special place.
Within the SELMER family, first of all, counting several generations of military musicians. Thus, like his father and grandfather, Henri Selmer began his career as a clarinettist very early on: he played in the Republican Guard, the Lamoureux and the Paris Opera orchestras. His brother Alexandre also inherited the musical fiber as he made a career in the United States in three major orchestras: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
Transmission is also essential in the workshops of Mantes-la-Ville, where traditional and artisanal know-how has been passed on for over a century, as well as a culture of permanent research in favour of the musician.
Georges, Jean, and their father Maurice Selmer (descendants of Henri Selmer)
Music as a legacy
It is always a great joy to see that our instruments are the transmission vehicles for our ambassadors. Obviously, this transmission takes place between teachers and students, but also when a parent shares his art and passion for music with his children…
We can of course mention the Delangle family. Saxophonist Claude Delangle and pianist Odile Catelin-Delangle have four musician children, two of whom are professionals: Rémi Delangle, clarinet soloist with the Orchestre de la Garde Républicaine and multi-faceted concert performer, and bassoonist Blandine Delangle, freshly graduated from the CNSMDP and freelance musician.
Delangle family at the 'Family Music Competition' (2011)
For the Delangle children, making music was an obvious choice. Indeed, music was an integral part of family life: they went to concerts and operas with their parents, but they also had access to the other side of the stage: the atmosphere in the dressing rooms, rehearsals, regular visits from composers and musicians at home… Parents and children always enjoyed playing together, whether by the fireplace, at the Family Music Competition or at professional concerts with large orchestras. While it may not be easy to find one's place when you have parents already well established in the profession, an atmosphere of caring and unwavering support seems to reign in the family. Blandine remembers with emotion one of her first concerts with her parents in Monaco:
"I didn't feel very legitimate with my parents, who were so used to sharing the stage in chamber music… But it was a great joy for me to feel that they took my interpretation into account, like colleagues! Their 'professional' listening encouraged me to get involved in this profession."
Claude and Rémi Delangle switching their instruments
For their part, Yves Sévère and his son Raphaël both chose the clarinet. Yet, at the beginning nothing was less certain. If Raphaël wanted to learn the clarinet from a very young age, his father, himself a clarinettist teaching at the Nantes Conservatory, invited him to try the piano, the violin, then the cello… Determined, Raphaël nevertheless ended up borrowing his father's clarinet at the age of eight to finally learn the coveted instrument. He then began to study at the Nantes Conservatory with his father. "I owe him most of everything, he laid the foundations for my further development" says the young virtuoso. Winner of the Tokyo competition at the age of 12, named Instrumental Soloist Revelation at the Victoires de la Musique at the age of 15, Raphaël Sévère won the prestigious Young Concert Artists International Auditions competition in New York in November 2013, something that made his father blush with pride.
Saxophonist duets are not to be outdone. During the second half of the 20th century, Gérard Badini took part in the greatest European Jazz festivals with his group Swing Machine and went to the United States to play with Roy Eldridge, Clark Terry, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Stan Getz... At the beginning of the following century, his son Jérôme Badini - lulled by Miles Davis and James Brown, inspired by Maceo Parker and Bennie Maupin - invented electro-sax and made his saxophone resonate alongside renowned DJs. In 2006, he collaborated with his father's orchestra and produced Scriabin's Groove, an award-winning album.
El grupo Compay Segundo
On the other side of the globe, the Cubans Rafael Inciarte Rodríguez and Rafael Inciarte Cordero play together in the mythical El grupo Compay Segundo. The first on Bb clarinet and his son on bass clarinet.
Rodríguez's father, Rafael Inciarte Brioso, began his musical career at the age of 10. In a Facebook post published last January, his son paid tribute to him on the 111th anniversary of his birth.
"He remains the banner of our family, which has been making music for Cuba and the world since 1836, i.e. 184 years. Thank you, Daddy! Long live music! Long live our family! Long live Guantanamo!"
Archive photo of the Inciarte family
If the Inciarte have always been close from father to son, some children inherit the passion of their parents without really knowing them. This is of course the case of Ravi Coltrane; John Coltrane dies when his son is only two years old. It is also the case of Joshua Redman, raised far from his father, the saxophonist Dewey Redman.
"I didn't grow up with my father, but I grew up with his music. He was one of my biggest influences because I've been listening to his music since I was born. I always thought there was a lot of his sound and playing in mine."
Dewey and Joshua Redman
It wasn't until he moved to New York City in 1991 that Joshua began playing with his father and got to know him. That year, he also won the famous Thelonious Monk International Saxophone Competition and started an international career. After recording several times with his father's band, Joshua Redman invited his father to participate in his album Back East in 2006, just a few months before his death. This was the last time they played together. In 2018, Joshua released Still Dreaming, an album inspired by his father's band Old and New Dreams (1976-1987).
Chico and Von Freeman (Photo: Ducasse)
Another family of musicians: the Freeman family. Having himself grown up surrounded by musicians (Louis Armstrong was a close friend of his father's), Von Freeman was one of the leading figures of the Tenor saxophone school in Chicago. Although he had a solid reputation in the region, his fame was limited since he refused to leave his hometown and recorded little. In the mid-1970s, his son Chico Freeman moved to New York City, became famous, brought his father to the forefront of the scene and gave him a taste for touring again. They recorded several albums together and performed in many countries. In 1982, Chico Freeman initiated an album entitled Fathers and Sons, which also featured pianist Ellis Marsalis and his two sons Wynton (trumpet player) and Branford Marsalis (saxophonist).
The Marsalis Family in concert
He has recorded several family albums since his early days, including Loved Ones (1996) as a duet with his father and Marsalis Family: A Jazz Celebration (2003) with his father and three of his brothers. When Ellis passed away last April, Branford said:
"My dad was a giant of a musician and teacher, but an even greater father. He poured everything he had into making us the best of what we could be."
Examples of daughters of musicians choosing the same path as their parents are not lacking either.
Singer, pianist and guitarist Norah Jones is the daughter of the famous Indian sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar has greatly contributed to the spread of Indian music in the West through his collaboration with violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Beatles guitarist George Harrison. His daughter has turned to jazz and has won several Grammy Awards.
Also a jazz singer, Dee Dee Bridgewater has collaborated with Ray Charles, Sonny Rollins, Dexter Gordon, and others. Her daughter China Moses showed an early interest in music and recorded her first single at the age of 16. She has since multiplied projects, participated in numerous festivals, and shared the stage with her mother on several occasions: at the Victoires du Jazz (2007), the Jazz festival in Vienne (2010) or with the Marseille Philharmonic Orchestra in 2013…
China Moose et Dee Dee Bridgewater
Many other mother-daughter duets have made history: Patti Smith (musician and singer) and her daughter Jesse Paris Smith (writer, activist, pianist), Naomi and Wynonna Judd, who sang for eight years in their country music duo The Judds, or the great Nina and Lisa Simone…
Music is a matter of sharing, that's why it spreads and is transmitted so well within the family nucleus. For Claude Delangle, the practice of music in family is resourcing but also necessary:
"It is fundamental for professional musicians to maintain an amateur practice of music. We must not consider our art for the sole purpose of concert programs or competitions… The family allows us to preserve a musical secret garden."