Reed player, composer, and ethnomusicologist Paul
Austerlitz combines his background as an ethnomusicologist specializing in
Afro-Caribbean music with his creative work as a jazz musician. As an
instrumentalist, Austerlitz has dedicated himself to mastering the bass and
contrabass clarinets. He also plays Bb (soprano) clarinet and tenor saxophone.
As a composer, Austerlitz weds his backgrounds in jazz and ethnomusicology,
producing works that incorporate the musics that he researches. He has been
especially active in blending Latin and Caribbean music from the Dominican
Republic and elsewhere with free forms of jazz.
Austerlitz has worked with musicians such as Doc Cheatham,
Julius Hemphill, Dave Murray, Don Byron, Roswell Rudd, Jimmy Knepper, Ed
Blackwell, Gunter Hampel, the poet Michael Harper, the Haitian Vodun-jazz group
Fula, and the African jazz group of Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng. Austerlitz's CD A
Bass Clarinet in Santo Domingo and Detroit (X-DOT 25) presents original
compositions and arrangements blending Afro-Caribbean and freely improvised
idioms with sundry influences such as Indian classical music and the
didgeridoo. Recorded with Caribbean and North American musicians in the
Dominican Republic and Detroit, it features the brilliant Cuban pianist Gonzalo
Rubalcaba. Austerlitz's CD Dominican Dreams, American Dreams (Engine
Studios) features a fusion of traditional Afro-Dominican rhythms (such as
merengue and pri-prí) with jazz. It also includes a wah-wah bass
clarinet version of the Star Spangled Banner. His CDs entitled
Double-Take (innova) and Our Book on Trane: The Yaddo Sessions
are collaborations with the acclaimed poet Michael Harper, presenting Harper's
poems in conversation with improvisational flights on the bass clarinet.
Austerlitz studied music with Bill Dixon, Milford Graves,
Dave Liebman and Frank Wess and received the Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from
Wesleyan University in 1993. His work as an ethnomusicologist includes the
books Jazz Consciousness: Music, Race, and Humanity (forthcoming in
2005, Wesleyan University Press) and Merengue: Dominican Music and Dominican
Identity (1997, Temple University Press).