Kenny Davern: No One But Kenny (2007)
The album title could stand as a fitting epitaph for clarinetist Kenny Davern, who died of a heart attack in December, 2006 at seventy-one. For no one else played jazz quite like Davern, whose affection for old trad jazz tunes belied a quirky sense of time as singular as Thelonious Monk's and a cavalier attitude toward such traditions as chord changes, bar lines and conventional pitch. Like Sonny Rollins, another jazz musician fond of old tunes, Davern was a master of his instrument, in command of all its varieties of tonal and timbral hues from top to bottom. And he also liked to improvise on melodies and rhythms more than harmonies.
This album is a bit of an anomaly in Davern's recent discography (he preferred working with guitarists rather than pianists for over a decade), a return to the classic clarinet-piano-drums format of New Orleans, Chicago and Swing Era jazz. Pianist David Boeddinghaus and drummer Trevor Richards are both latter-day secular saints of traditional New Orleans style jazz. But Richards' rather spare snare and bass drumming complements Davern's freewheeling approach and Boeddinghaus' barrelhouse stride provides rhythmic ballast too.
They are thoroughly idiomatic players, while Davern, although completely comfortable within the idiom, remains an idiosyncratic player. Just listen to his clarinet, all glisses, slips and slurs in his opening choruses on "Moonglow, burst back in after the piano solo with squiggly trills and pungent cries. Or catch his octave leaps and abstract coda on "There is No Greater Love, asymmetrical phrasing on "My Honey's Loving Arms and sustained melodic invention in a solo on "Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho that rises slowly through all registers of the clarinet, from chalumeau low to piping high.
And always there's that indefatigable swing and coursing, sustained volumea sound that made Davern an implacable foe of amplification on gigs. With a sound as big and rich as that, who needed a microphone?
Track Listing: Sugar; Moonglow; No One Else But You; DBR Drag; You're Lucky to Me; Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho; Tishomingo Blues; All by Myself ; Pretty Baby (Clarinet/Piano Duet); (There Is) No Greater Love; Beale Street Blues (Piano Solo); My Honey's Loving Arms.
Personnel: David Boeddinghaus: piano; Trevor Richards: drums; Kenny Davern: clarinet.