Bass Clarinet Duo
The San Francisco-based Sqwonk bass clarinet duo is a dynamic and adventurous ensemble that “pushes the envelope of what bass clarinet music can be” (Clarinet Magazine). Sqwonk is devoted to exploring the full expressive range of the bass clarinet, from deep resonances to raucous wails. While grounded in the classical tradition, Sqwonk’s music draws on a wide range of influences, from klezmer to heavy metal to blues to minimalism to free improvisation, creating a repertoire that is strikingly contemporary, yet broadly accessible to a wide audience.
Bass Clarinet Ensemble
Improbable Beasts is a Boston-based professional bass clarinet ensemble dedicated to bringing the deeply expressive power of multiple bass clarinets before a broad audience. Our repertoire ranges from Renaissance choral music to brand-new compositions to klezmer tunes and holiday songs. Our mission is to share the deep resonances, soaring lyricism, and propulsive grooves of bass clarinet ensemble music with as many people as we can.
The members of Improbable Beasts are some of the most sought-after clarinetists in the Boston area, regularly appearing with groups such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Lyric Opera, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and numerous regional orchestras, new music groups, and chamber ensembles.
Improbable Beasts’ founder and leader, Jon Russell, has two decades of experience inventing and performing music for bass clarinet(s). He was a longtime member of the Edmund Welles bass clarinet quartet, which channeled the ecstatic power of heavy metal through the deep resonances of four bass clarinets. He is a member, with Jeff Anderle, of the Sqwonk bass clarinet duo, which for the past 15 years has been creating a new repertoire of vital new music for two bass clarinets. Jon is also a seasoned composer and arranger, with a vast catalog of works for orchestras, choirs, chamber ensembles, and wind bands. He is uniquely positioned to create and arrange music for many bass clarinets that fully exploits the extraordinary capabilities of this unusual ensemble. With the creation of Improbable Beasts, Jon can now realize the richly-textured, harmonious, ferocious music of his dreams.
The Improbable Beasts are: Amy Advocat, Hunter Bennett, Nicholas Brown, Celine Ferro, Chuck Furlong, Gary Gorczyca, Diane Heffner, Wolcott Humphrey, Bill Kirkley, Marguerite Levin, Kathy Matasy, Rane Moore, Annie Phillips, Jonathan Russell, Julie Stuckenschneider, and Ryan Yuré.
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Solo performance on clarinet and bass clarinet
“A real virtuoso with true command over his instrument’s range of expression” (San Mateo Daily Journal), Jonathan appears frequently as a clarinet and bass clarinet soloist in recital, chamber, orchestral, and wind band settings. Drawing on his wide range of experience in classical music, contemporary music, free improvisation, and klezmer music, he gives highly energized, detailed performances of both standard repertoire and new works. He frequently performs his own solo works and concertos, as well as premieres of works by other composers.
klezmer and eastern european folk music
Jonathan is a dedicated and passionate performer of Klezmer, Eastern European, and Balkan styles of music, in both traditional and experimental incarnations. For many years he was the clarinetist in the San Francisco Bay Area band Zoyres. He has also performed with the Bay Area band Adama, Yiddish singer Heather Klein, the Washington DC-based band Machaya, and Boston’s Hankus Netsky.
music director for dance productions
Jonathan has worked as Music Director on seven dance productions with choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton of Garrett + Moulton Productions. He has overseen all musical aspects of the productions, including finding repertoire; putting together a live instrumental ensemble; arranging, editing, and composing music as needed; and playing in and conducting the ensemble during the shows.
Photo: R J Muna