Chicago-based clarinetist James Falzone is in the vanguard of modern players who use the wooden horn as their main instrument. Born September 1, 1971, his education began in earnest with his uncle, James DiPasquale, a tenor saxophonist and film composer. He introduced Falzone to fellow Chicagoan and saxophonist Rich Corpolongo, who became his first formal teacher, and introduced Falzone to the power of jazz improvisation. Further education took place with undergraduate studies at Northern Illinois University with clarinet instructor Melvin Warner, who allowed classical and jazz studies to co-exist. After several years playing in Chicago, traveling and then getting married, Falzone headed for the New England Conservatory in Boston, earning a master's degree, was part of the third stream/contemporary improvisation program and was a student of Ran Blake and Hankus Netsky. Back in Chicago as a performer, he formed Allos Musica, a chamber jazz ensemble. Their projects have included notable guests Steve Lacy, Richard Stoltzman, Jorrit Dijkstra, Theodore Bikel, Joe Maneri, Fred Lonberg-Holm, and Ran Blake. Falzone is also a founding member of the French music ensemble Le Bon Vent, featured at the Maison de la Culture Festival in Montreal which broadcast the ensemble's live performance on Canadian Public Radio -- one of only a handful of ensembles to do so.
Falzone has been a frequent lecturer on music at L'Abri Fellowship both in the U.S. and Europe and has presented master classes and workshops at Notre Dame University, Wheaton College Conservatory, Marquette University, Northern Illinois University, and was recently a visiting scholar at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island where he assisted the Navy's Strategic Studies Group in thinking through how musical improvisation could shed light in the conflict with terrorism. Falzone is on the faculty at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, where he teaches courses in theory, composition, and world music, and is music director for Grace Church in Chicago, writing and performing liturgical creative improvised and composed music played for a congregation every Sunday. In regards to his compositions, Falzone's music has been performed by the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Indiana's South Bend Orchestra, and the Human Connection New Music Ensemble. Projects he has developed or taken part in have been awarded grants from the Chicago Cultural Center, the Hillary Swing Fund for Creativity, the Consulate General of the Netherlands, the Rotary Foundation, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and the Vermont Arts Council.
In 2000 Falzone founded the Allos Documents label and issued The Already & the Not Yet, his debut release as a leader. Two albums by Falzone's Middle Eastern-informed Allos Musica ensemble, The Sign and the Thing Signified (2007) and Lamentations (2010), would subsequently see release on Allos Documents, as would three albums, Tea Music (2009), Other Doors (2011), and Brooklyn Lines...Chicago Spaces (2012), by the clarinetist's creative jazz quartet KLANG (featuring, in addition to Falzone, vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz, bassist Jason Roebke, and drummer Tim Daisy). In addition, the experimental trio Vox Arcana, comprising Falzone, Daisy, and cellist Lonberg-Holm, issued Aerial Age on Allos in 2011. The following year Falzone released Sighs Too Deep for Words, a DVD of a solo clarinet performance at Chicago's Experimental Sound Studio. He would later record a version of Steve Reich's 1985 composition New York Counterpoint at the same studio; with Alex Inglizian serving as recording engineer, Falzone and bass clarinetist Jeff Kimmel multi-tracked all 11 clarinet parts of the Reich piece during the summer of 2014, and the results were released digitally by Allos in August of that year.
Arriving in February 2015 as the tenth Allos Documents release, The Room Is by the Renga Ensemble marked yet another intriguing direction in the clarinetist's multifaceted career. Recorded at the Electrical Audio studio (founded by Steve Albini) during April 2013, the album featured 11 Falzone compositions and three improvisations performed by a stellar reeds-only sextet with the leader joined by Ben Goldberg, Ken Vandermark, Keefe Jackson, Ned Rothenberg, and Jason Stein on a variety of clarinets and saxophones. ~ Michael G. Nastos, Rovi