As somebody who fumbles around with a clarinet occasionally I’m posting a little tribute I’ve done to the late Acker Bilk. Among clarinet players Acker’s shall we say ‘unique’ sound is much maligned. My own teacher, Harry Conn, who knew Acker personally and was a pro for sixty years, hated his sound. I don’t like it much myself, I can hear the Bechet influences and I’m not a great fan of Bechet.
Harry was also jealous of Stranger On The Shore, and would tell me how Acker’s ‘stupid little tune’ had set him up for life. Here I disagree. I think – and many people agree – that Stranger is sublimely beautiful. Although my own version may not be quite so.
My own personal memories of Acker are of him sitting drinking scrumpy in the Coronation Tap in Bristol in the 1980s, still wearing his silly hat and waistcoat. He certainly made an impression of sorts.