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Kenny Davern: A Night with Eddie Condon

Although this remastered recording of a 1971 high-school concert was released under clarinetist/sopranoist Kenny Davern’s name, the leader was actually the irrepressible Eddie Condon. Condon played rhythm guitar on a few tunes, but served mostly in his familiar role as straw boss and cheerleader for an all-star group of Chicago-style players that included, in addition to Davern, trumpeter Bernie Privin, trombonist Lou McGarity, pianist Dill Jones, bassist Jack Lesberg and drummer Cliff Leeman. Condon can be heard throughout joking with the audience, calling tunes, setting tempos, assigning solos, giving instructions and generally urging on his charges. And the band sounds as if they’re having a great time with arrangements of such New Orleans/Chicago favorites as “At the Jazz Band Ball,” “Rosetta,” “Royal Garden Blues,” “China Boy,” “Muskrat Ramble” and “That’s A-Plenty” to mention just half the 12 tunes.

Privin convincingly captures the mannerisms of Louis Armstrong, and Jones demonstrates a mastery of mainstream piano. Davern, who had the recently discovered tape prepared for this release, solos with emotion and an easy sense of swing, although he sounds as if he was standing some distance from the recorder. Especially impressive is trombonist McGarity, whose facile technique and fertile imagination stand out even in this first-class context.

Originally Published