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Billy Novick is the penultimate woodwind and reeds player. Equally comfortable playing traditional Irish folk music (on the pennywhistle), New Orleans jazz (on clarinet and soprano sax), straight-ahead jazz, swing (on alto and soprano saxophones), and acoustic folk music (on clarinet and saxophone), Novick has maintained a seemingly impossible pace as a musician. In addition to performing an annual average of one hundred gigs with trad jazz ensemble Black Eagle Jazz Band and an annual average of 50 gigs with fingerstyle guitarist Guy Van Duser, Novick has been featured on numerous advertising jingles and film soundtracks. Novick arranged, performed, and served as music director for Dave Van Ronk's jug band interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf in 1991. Novick has recently performed and recorded with his own straight-ahead jazz band, Shades of Swing. Their debut album, Swing So Sweetly, released in 1992, was followed by Remembering You in 1994. Novick recorded an album, T Is Always, with jazz saxophonist Herb Pomeroy in 1996.
Long Island-raised Novick played clarinet at the age of eight. He added saxophone to his arsenal of instruments at the age of 15. After studying at the Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Novick toured and recorded with Leon Redbone, Jonathan Edwards, and Martha Reeves & the Vandellas. During a performance by David Bromberg at Cambridge, MA, folk music coffeehouse Passims, Novick had an opportunity to sit in with Bromberg's band. The experience turned into an audition when Novick was invited to join the group. He remained with Bromberg for the next year and a half.
In 1976, Novick met Guy Van Duser during rehearsals for a dance performance and agreed to play on Van Duser's debut solo album, Fingerstyle Guitar. Although executives at the Rounder Record label were dubious of the combination of woodwinds and acoustic guitar, the results were so impressive that Novick and Van Duser agreed to continue pooling their resources. The duo's seventh album, Every Little Moment: Classic Jazz for Acoustic Guitar and Clarinet was released in 1996. Novick and Van Duser have been featured on Mason Daring's soundtracks for such John Sayles-produced films as The Secaucus Seven, Matawan, The Brother From Another Planet, and Passion Fish. Together with Van Duser, Novick composed the theme song for the PBS show, This Old House. In addition to their performances as a duo, Novick and Van Duser have periodically joined with Bill Staines, Mason Daring, and Jeannie Stahl as "the Passim All-Stars." Novick was accompanied by Van Duser on his debut solo recording, The New Pennywhistle Album, in 1978. Novick joined Black Eagle Jazz Band in 1986.