“There are a number of exceptional clarinetists working in the traditional idioms right now, but none of them cut Joe Licari.” --Robert Levin
Joe Licari (b. January 10, 1934, Brooklyn, New York) is an American jazz clarinetist.
Known as an especially “hot” player with an exuberant and always emotive attack, Licari is considered, by critics and peers alike, to be in the front rank of contemporary “classic” jazz musicians.
He is also among the most immediately recognizable. The renowned Bob Wilber, with whom Licari studied for nearly a year, said of him: “You hear the influence of Benny Goodman in his playing…also the Chicago players Frank Teschemacher and Pee Wee Russell, plus the New Orleans clarinetists Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet and Jimmie Noone. He has used some of their ideas and rejected others to come up with his own style. To achieve [your own] identity is the goal of all serious [jazz] players. When you hear [Licari’s] clarinet you know it’s him.”
In a 60-year career Licari (who also plays the soprano and alto saxophones) has worked alongside such luminaries as Roy Eldridge, “Wild” Bill Davison, Conrad Janis, Big Chief Russell Moore, Connie Kay, Bob Haggart, Vic Dickenson, Pee Wee Erwin and Doc Cheatham, and with the vocalist Julie Wilson. He’s also appeared in films, on The Today Show, on Jim Lowe’s radio show (eight years), and in venues that have included The Algonquin, Eddie Condon’s, Jimmy Ryan’s and Michael’s Pub (where he was a stand-in for Woody Allen).