Rico ~ A Long Family Tradition

Today virtually every clarinet or saxophone performer has at one time or another performed with a Rico reed—and it all began in France with Joseph Rico in 1928. Rico, a talented musician born in Italy in 1876, ran away from seminary school to America with his brother Libereto.

RicoReedBoxJoseph was a harpist, pianist, and guitarist, and his brother played both the mandolin and the violin. As a result of their hard work, both musicians became quite well known in Chicago and New York. Joseph Rico started composing and conducting, and went on to Paris where he became a sought-after composer. His Valses lentes are still played today.

In 1926, Joseph’s nephew, Frank De Michele, a clarinetist with Walt Disney studios, wrote to him complaining about the difficulty of finding good reeds in Los Angeles. Joseph began sending reeds to his nephew, who was able to quickly sell them to his fellow musicians. Soon Joseph’s supplier couldn’t keep up with De Michele’s demand for the canes from which the reeds were cut.

The resourceful Joseph found another source of excellent reed cane near his vacation cottage in the Var region of France and sent the first shipment of 772 lb. to America in 1928. Having secured a reliable cane supply, De Michele started his own woodwind reed line, and with permission from his uncle, named it “Rico” in his honor. Soon thereafter, Frank De Michele found partners, including musician and engineer Roy J. Maier, and created a woodwind reed factory in the U.S. that bore the Rico name.

With his knowledge of superior playing technique and reed characteristics, Maier devised the first equipment to measure the details of a reed’s cut precisely. Maier’s legacy of ingenuity and attention to detail lives on in today’s Rico reeds, inspired by generations of the world’s top woodwind players.

Among the traditions maintained by Rico, even now all cane harvesting is done by hand. Clarinetists and saxophonists will be glad to know that Rico is in no hurry to produce playable reeds from harvested cane poles. Rico patiently allows the cane to mature, drying the poles thoroughly til they arrive at their golden color and gain the desired acoustic properties. Along with time-honored harvesting procedures, Rico also employs modern technology to ensure that all Rico reeds are properly cut. The reed-cutting machines are meticulously calibrated to produce uniform reeds of specific strengths and sizes.

At Rico, musicians are in charge of quality control, and they carefully monitor the reed-cutting machines adjusting calibration many times daily and randomly test-playing finished reeds from each of the machines. Millions of reeds—all of them—are inspected for imperfections, and only those that pass Rico’s rigorous quality-control standards are finally packaged and shipped.


At Rico’s state-of-the-art reed research center, agronomists, scientists, and musicians produce top-quality reeds, including Rico Reserve Premium Reeds for clarinet and saxophone. Since its inception over 80 years ago, Rico has expanded to offer reed lines for professional to beginner musicians and classical to jazz performers:

-Designed for ease of play
-Unfiled for powerful tone
-Priced affordably for students
-Available for a full range of clarinets and saxophones
-Offered in quantities of 3 and 10 reeds and the 25 Novapak reed dispenser

Rico Royal:
-French filed for flexibility and fast response
-Work well for classical and jazz applications
-Premium cane for consistent response

Rico Reserve:
-Crafted from high-density lower-internode cane
-Sorted by color video inspection
-Accurately measured with optical lasers
-Cut with precision natural-diamond blades for consistency

Grand Concert Select:
-More wood in the heart for better projection
-Premium cane for longevity
-Outstanding articulation and response

Frederick L. Hemke:
-Professional-quality for classical and jazz performers
-Shorter vamp for dark tone
-Balanced, slightly thinner tip for quick response and articulation

La Voz:
-Unfiled reed for powerful tone
-Premium cane for consistent response
-Available in soft to hard strengths

-Coated with plastic to resist changes in moisture and climate
-Coating provides durable, clear tone

Rico Select Jazz:
-Huge sound with powerful projection
-Premium cane for longevity

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Tom “Bones Malone” – Sweet Home Chicago (Bari)

My homework for next week. 🙂


For my first post back after surgery, I decided to go with an old favorite. As a kid growing up in Chicago in the 70s and 80s, few movies had a bigger impact on me than the Blues Brothers. This song in particular touches my heart, and the playing on it is great, so what better place to start?

This solo really swings, and I really love how he utilizes the full range of the horn. I play a lot of bari and use a lot of air, but I really struggled in spots to drive the whole phrase through to the end with the power that I needed. These are long phrases!

Harmonically, the solo is super straightforward, which is one of the things I love about it. C# (concert E) is a real ‘guitar key’, not always fun for an Eb transposing horn player to get around in…

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Jazz, I’ll just put this here.

Overheard: Wonderful piece played wonderfully. It is a little funny though that the title of the video mentions a Duke Ellington cover. There are no covers in jazz, but great pieces known as standards, which all artists interpret their own way, each time differently. And Duke Ellington wrote a great lot of them. Still the Cohens and their set are amazing. Great video!

Mario Silva1: “Standards” refer to songs in the “Great American Songbook”. Most are standards were written for musicals, broadway shows, movies etc.. with lyrics that are performed mostly by vocalists and re interpreted instrumentally by Jazz musicians. That very act kept jazz popular and hip for people who weren’t aware of be bop, hard bop, or big band music that was strictly instrumental and made for the sake of the art and Jazz.

Max: How I wish I could make music in Israel, feel the wind, smell the air, so sweet and wild.  I miss the land, the people, the food, the sights and sounds.  All of it.  The Cohen family is carrying on the tradition of jazz, of music from the heart.  Bless you all.  Shalom Haverim.

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Clarinet Cadenza Goodness

Mark Walton proves in this recording what a fine clarinetist he was in this, Sid Phillips’ chart. Both the musician and Sid are so underrated. Sid, a British musician, played in the United States on radio and freelance in clubs in the 1930s. He served in the Royal Air Force during World War II, then put together his own quartet in 1946 and wrote several pieces for the BBC Symphony Orchestra. He led a Dixieland jazz band of his own formation from 1949. Enjoy.

Posted in Clarinet, Jazz, Vintage | 2 Comments

An Ode to White Supremacy

In regards to the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville last night, this is the best thread on the matter written on Twitter by @Julius Goat. I am copying it here because it is incredible. If you do ONE thing today, it should be to read this:


“Imagine if these people ever faced actual oppression. Nobody is trying to legislate away their right to marry. Nobody is trying to make them buy insurance to pay for ‘male health care.’

The law never:

  • Enslaved their great-grandparents
  • Robbed their grandparents
  • Imprisoned their parents
  • Shot them when unarmed

There is no massive effort at the state and local level to disenfranchise them of the vote. There is no history of centuries of bad science devoted to ‘proving’ their intellectual inferiority.There is no travel ban on them because of their religion. There is no danger for them when they carry dangerous weaponry publicly.

Their churches were never burned.
Their lawns never decorated with burning crosses
Their ancestors never hung from trees.

Their mothers aren’t being torn away by ICE troopers and sent away forever. They won’t be forced to leave the only country they ever knew. The president has not set up a hotline to report crime committed at their hands.

They are chanting ‘we will not be replaced.’
Replaced as … what?

I’ll tell you.
Replaced as the only voice in public discussions.
Replaced as the only bodies in the public arena.
Replaced as the only life that matters.

THIS is ‘white people’ oppression:
We used to be the only voice. Now we hold the only microphone.

THIS is ‘white man’ oppression.
We face criticism now. We were free from it, because others feared the consequences.

THIS is ‘oppression’ of white Christians in this country.
Christmas used to be the only holiday acknowledged, now it’s not.
I would so love to see these people get all the oppression they insist they receive, just for a year. Just to see.

Give them a world where you ACTUALLY can’t say Christmas.
A world where the name “Geoff” on a resume puts it in the trash.

Give them a world where they suddenly get a 20% pay cut, and then 70 women every day tell them to smile more.

Give them a world where their polo shirt makes people nervous, so they’re kicked off the flight from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis.

Give them a world where they inherited nothing but a very real understanding of what oppression really fucking is.

Give them a world where if they pulled up on a campus with torches lit and started throwing hands, the cops would punch their eyes out.

Put THAT in your Tiki torches and light it, you sorry Nazi bitches.
Good morning, by the way, how is everybody.”

Posted in Education, Lifestyle, News and politics, Politics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Unholy Rackett

Excerpted from the Unholy Rackett, a stellar music group discovered on Facebook. As I wished to share the info provided by the Unholy Rackett to the Woodwind Forum I took some highlights that was penned by Simon Rickard. What a fab group!

rackettsThe instruments shown in this photograph are both called ‘racketts’. However, they are only very distantly related to one another, and they never coexisted during the same historical period. Although superficially similar in appearance, they are as different from one another as a harpsichord is from a piano, a violin is from a viol, or a banjo is from a guitar. The fact that they are both referred to as ‘racketts’ today is a historical coincidence.
On the right is the instrument used in our video, the renaissance rackett.

The renaissance rackett is a double reed instrument with a narrow cylindrical bore, like a bagpipe chanter or a crumhorn. The bore is coiled nine times within the body of the instrument, emerging at the side of the instrument as a simple hole. The renaissance rackett’s large double reed is blown with the assistance of a pirouette, like that of a shawm. Due to their cylindrical bore, renaissance racketts play at 16’ pitch; that is, an octave lower than expected from the length of the bore.

Like all renaissance instruments, the renaissance rackett came in a family of sizes, from alto to great bass, famously depicted in Michael Praetorius’s Theatrum Instrumentorum of 1620.

RackettReferenceThe rackett seems to have appeared in the German-speaking states in the the 1570s. The earliest evidence we have for it is a miniature by Hans Mielich of the Bavarian Hofkapelle in Munich, ca1570, which depicts the composer Orlando di Lasso with a consort of singer and instrumentalists, amongst whom is a man playing a rackett. The first written evidence of a ‘Ragget’ was in 1576 at Ludwigsburg. Over the next half century they were variously referred to as Rageten, Ragecken,’Rogetten’ and ‘Racketten’. There is one tantalising reference to the renaissance rackett from France (Mersenne 1636), depicting what it calls a ‘cervelat à musique’ – a musical sausage. This is the only extant reference to a renaissance rackett outside the German-speaking states. There is no evidence that the word ‘Rankett’, used for an organ stop, was ever applied to the woodwind instrument in its day.

The renaissance rackett appears to have died out in the decades following the Thirty Years War, when German musical tastes shifted away from renaissance polyphony toward the new baroque style. Three original renaissance racketts survive, all made of ivory.
The instrument shown on the left of the photograph is a baroque rackett.

SchematicOfRackettThe baroque rackett probably appeared around 1700, and survived until around 1750. The baroque rackett is effectively a compact baroque bassoon, which has had its bore folded several times to fit inside a single billet of wood. It has a conical bore, the same as a baroque bassoon, uses a small lip-controlled reed the same as a baroque bassoon, and plays at the same pitch as the baroque bassoon (8’ pitch, with a compass of BBb – g). It was only available in one size, and was probably something of a novelty.
The folded bore gave it its German nickname, ‘Wurstfagott’, or ‘sausage bassoon’, and in French, ‘cervelas’, or ‘sausage’ (similar to the renaissance rackett). There is no evidence the baroque rackett was ever referred to by terms such as Ragget/Raget/Rageck/Rogett or Rackett during its day.

Several original baroque racketts survive, including some from well-known eighteenth century woodwind makers such as Robert Wijne from the Netherlands, and Charles Bizey from France, both of whom also made regular baroque bassoons.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this instrument the origin of the English expression ‘to make a racket’? No. The rackett was unknown in English-speaking countries. It is purely a coincidence that these words look and sound the same. ‘Rackett’ is a German word meaning a ‘firework-shaped instrument’. It shares the same root word as the English word ‘rocket’.

Is the rackett the predecessor of the bassoon? No. Organologically speaking, the renaissance rackett is in a different family from the bassoon due to its bore shape. However, the baroque rackett is related to the baroque bassoon, and is descended from it. Chronologically speaking, the curtal or dulcian appeared ca. 1550, the renaissance rackett appeared ca. 1570, the baroque bassoon appeared ca. 1660 and the baroque racket ca. 1700.

Where can I buy a rackett? Renaissance racketts are made by Phil and Gayle Neuman in the USA, and All’Antica in Switzerland. Secondhand racketts by older makers (Moeck, Wood, Beekhuizen, Loraine) are occasionally available online.

As far as we aware, nobody is currently making baroque racketts. You might be lucky to buy one secondhand, but these instruments are essentially impossible to get. Hopefully a clever instrument maker will start making them again soon!

From the group: If you have a different interpretation of the primary evidence, or know of any new evidence that has come to light, we would love to hear from you. Thanks!

More pictures by Simon Rickard: https://www.instagram.com/unholyrackett/

Posted in Classical, Woodwind Forum | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Just a nice picture …

Wish I could credit it. I found this on the Internet today. So crazy. The colors, the patina, the expressive. Devine.


Posted in Art | 2 Comments