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World Music CD Reviews North American

Beth Custer And The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

By Stacy Meyn
Published April 27, 2007

Bernal Heights Suite
BC Records

San Francisco’s clarinet queen Beth Custer adores her co-workers and her neighborhood. Loyalties stretch back through numerous projects, including the silent-film-soundtracking Club Foot Orchestra, boundary-dissolving ethno-ambient ensemble Trance Mission, Eighty Mile Beach’s trip-hop excursions, the Latin/jazz/rocking of Doña Luz 30 Besos, the Clarinet Thing quintet, and the Beth Custer Ensemble. She has penned a plethora of TV, film, dance, and theater soundtracks, playing clarinet with oodles of fellow whimsical-yet-essential performers. A Masters in Clarinet Performance from San Francisco State U and Rosario Mazzeo’s tutelage have made Custer a formidable clarinet presence and a beloved member of the Bernal Heights family. For her home and homies, she adeptly tackles composition for string trio, studying Gorecki and Bartok and taking excellent notes. Violin, viola, and cello are interwoven with her clarinet musings and vocals—melodious and engaging, and naturally a bit cinematic. Beth Custer tops the list of indispensable contemporary composers.