Jazz virtuoso plays mind-blowing clarinet solo while casually playing in street band

7 January 2022, 14:52 | Updated: 21 January 2022, 16:41

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

A virtuosic dixieland jazz band arrangement of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ like you’ve never heard before.

Doreen Ketchens is a legend. This cool clarinettist has played for four US presidents, recorded an album almost every year since 1994, and is widely considered one of the cultural ambassadors of New Orleans.

For decades she has played in the Royal Street Performing Arts Zone in the French Quarter, with her band, Doreen’s Jazz New Orleans, and the video above was captured at one of these performances.

The tune Ketchens plays is House of the Rising Sun, a traditional folk song also known as the ‘​​Rising Sun Blues’, which was made famous by The Animals in 1964.

Appropriate to Ketchens’ location, the song begins with the lyrics, “There is a house way down in New Orleans, They call the Rising Sun”.

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Doreen Ketchens is widely considered one of the cultural ambassadors of New Orleans.
Doreen Ketchens is widely considered one of the cultural ambassadors of New Orleans. Picture: Alamy

From the start of the clip, her virtuosity is evident, with advanced techniques such as growling, and swift chromatic scales showcasing the devilishly diligent dexterity of her digits.

Nicknamed ‘Lady Louis’, for the mastery of her instrument’s range, Ketchens skips between octaves without a care in the world, leaving passersby unable to stop themselves from turning a head and listening in awe.

Then to surprise us further, Ketchens takes the microphone and starts singing at 0.57 in a soul-meltingly deep alto voice. She continues to move with ease between clarinet and vocal solo for the remainder of the tune.

This video also earned Ketchen’s playing the title of “the dirtiest clarinet solo” by YouTube transcriber, George Collier, who wrote out the music to the clarinettist’s improvisation.

Watching this solo along with the music only makes for an even more impressive listen to this wonderful musician.
Check out Collier’s other transcriptions here.