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Kenny Davern Quartet at the Mill Hill Playhouse by Kenny Davern

It’s hard to believe that the kid that played with Eddie Condon is celebrating 50 years of recording history.

Born in Huntingdon, NY (1935), Kenny Davern made his recording debut with Jack Teagarden’s band in 1954. When "T" left for the West Coast, Davern joined Phil Napoleon’s Memphis 5 and remained in New York. It was there that he had the opportunity to play with men who were already living legends including Henry Red Allen, Jo Jones, Eddie Condon and Buck Clayton.

Later years saw Kenny Davern in the company of the Dukes Of Dixieland, Ruby Braff and Herman Autrey. The 1970s found the clarinetist playing soprano as part of Bob Wilber’s Soprano Summit. The general jazz public began to take notice of Kenny’s prowess. Oddly, Davern made very few recording sessions under his own name until the mid 1980s.

You’ll find the clarinetist on many records by Wild Bill Davison, Yank Lawson, George Masso, George Shearing, Warren Vaché and Dick Wellstood just to name a few. In recent times, Davern has devoted himself to the clarinet exclusively and the baritone gathers dust. By his own admission, the soprano sax is played once yearly.

Kenny Davern is at his best on this live session at the Mill Hill Playhouse in Trenton, NJ on May 19, 2003. The clarinetist is in the company of longtime friends. Drummer, Tony DeNicola and Davern have been pals for 40 years. James Chirillo comes from a Rock & Roll background and entered jazz with the last generation of the Benny Goodman band. Greg Cohen is a versatile player who spends much of his time with Ornette Coleman.

The quartet tackles nine upbeat jazz standards and delivers them all with confidence and perfection. One may argue that perfection is often dull. If that is true, then this band is the exception to the rule. The tunes are as fresh as ever and I suggest that their version of Diga Diga Doo is the most exciting I’ve ever heard.

This is highly recommended listening for followers of traditional and mainstream jazz. Sound samples are available at the Arbors website.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Kenny Davern
  • CD Title: Kenny Davern Quartet at the Mill Hill Playhouse
  • Genre: Traditional / New Orleans
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Arbors Jazz
  • Tracks: I Want To Be Happy; Someday Sweetheart; It’s Tight Like That; Wabash Blues; My Gal Sal; Wild Man Blues; My Blue Heaven; Lazy River; Diga Diga Doo.
  • Musicians: Kenny Davern (clarinet); James Chirillo (guitar); Greg Cohen (bass); Tony De Nicola (drums).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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