You Should Know… Seth Kibel

Photo by David Stuck
Photo by David Stuck

By Josh Marks

To say that Seth Kibel is a versatile musician is an understatement. The 40-year-old Pikesville resident is a woodwind specialist skilled on the clarinet, saxophone and flute. He has been entertaining Washington and Baltimore audiences for years with a combination of jazz, klezmer and swing music.

Kibel has racked up an impressive 28 Washington Area Music Awards (Wammies), including 2014 jazz instrumentalist of the year.

Besides his solo performances and recordings, Kibel founded and fronts klezmer band The Alexandria Kleztet. He can also be seen with Russian-hot club jazz-klezmer ensemble Music Pilgrim Trio, swing and jump blues band The Natty Beaux and other projects.

Kibel recently took time out from his busy schedule to talk with us about how he got into woodwind instruments, the process of recording his latest album and the Washington-Baltimore area’s thriving music scene.

How did you get into music and specifically woodwind instruments?

I started playing clarinet in school in fourth grade just like every other suburban kid. But I definitely really liked it and the older I got and the more I played, the more deeply in love I fell with playing music.

Tell us about some of the musical genres like klezmer that you perform?

I do a lot of different genres but my two main specialties are Jewish music, klezmer, and American jazz. There are a lot of similarities and overlap between these two styles of music. They both involve a great deal of improvisation, are kinds of folk music and thrived in New York at the dawn of the 20th century right around the same time.

How was the recording process for your new album?

The album is a little bit different from some of the previous records I’ve done in that it’s all original music that I wrote. All instrumental compositions. But there is still a wide variety of styles. There are some tunes written in more of a traditional klezmer style, some straight ahead swing tunes and some tunes that definitely veer towards [hot club] jazz. A wide variety of instrumental music. The common bond being that it’s all music that I’ve written and that features me on my assorted woodwind instruments.

What are your thoughts on the music scene in D.C. and Baltimore?

There’s a very rich music scene here. It’s nice because you both have a lot of private work in the Washington, D.C. area — weddings and political functions and society affairs, which helps keep musicians employed. But then you’ve also got a lot of nice listening rooms and a healthy swing dance ­­­­­­scene and different concert halls. So there’s lots of places for both musicians to get their music out to the public but also to make a respectable living playing for private affairs.

Any advice for up-and-coming musicians?

The main advice I give to young musicians today is to make sure to diversify your music career. It’s hard to get by in the music business if you only play one instrument or one style of music. I’ve managed to make a good career for myself doing a wide variety of activities in the music industry and I think that’s really the key to success.

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