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December 2007

Kenny Davern & Ken Peplowski
Dialogues
Arbors Records

This is what jazz is all about: inventive musicians getting together and having a swinging conversation. Two pairs of creative thinkers here: clarinetists Davern and Peplowski, guitarists Howard Alden and James Chirillo, plus a barebones rhythm section of bassist Nicki Parrott and drummer Tony DeNicola. As in any good summit meeting, comments are exchanged on agreed topics—in other words, arrangements are minimal: plenty of stretch-out room for solo ideas; plenty of time for riffs to emerge.

Sometimes the moods are cerebral, as with the intimate, contrapuntal conversation between guitars on “Nobody Else But Me,” enhancing Jerome Kern’s tricky modulations. Other times, the mood is retro, as on “High Society.” But that Dixieland classic, meant to separate men clarinetists from boy clarinetists, shows that with controlled dynamics, a two-beat can build to a satisfying climax. Doublings are used for specific effects, such as Peplowski’s tenor obligato behind Davern’s clarinet on “If Dreams Come True,” and both guitarists switching to banjos on “High Society.” Not surprisingly, there is whimsy to be heard. As a soloist, Parrott loves to interpolate: “Muskrat Ramble” is morphed into “Muskrat Samba”; hints of a klezmer shuffle can be heard in “Comes Love.”

Can’t tell who’s soloing? Not to worry: Dan Morgenstern’s encyclopedic notes will keep you well informed.

Originally published in December 2007
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