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Kenny Davern Trio: No One Else But Kenny

In view of the great chemistry between clarinetist Davern and pianist David Boeddinghaus, the title of this 2006 recording is unfortunate. Granted, it stems from one of the dozen tunes in the session, “No One Else But You,” but it tends to downplay the impressive contributions made by Boeddinghaus, particularly his mastery of stride technique.

However, the title proved to be prophetic; Davern died last December at age 71. While it may sound as if they had collaborated often over the years, the only time their paths had crossed before this recording was at the Ascona Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 2003. In the studio, no arrangements were necessary; just mutual agreement on tempos, beginnings, order of solos and endings. The music took care of everything else. Hey, this is traditional jazz, and the traditions have been in place for well over a century.

One of those traditions can be heard in the four-to-the-bar bass drumming. It’s performed correctly and tastefully by Trevor Richards, but it still sounds cluttered. Too bad this couldn’t have been an all-duo album, or, if there had to be another rhythm instrument, why not bass? Which is why, in terms of musical intimacy, and the occasional need for breathing room, the best track is “Pretty Baby.” Boeddinghaus provides that instinctive elasticity. It’s a charming display of give and take. When the clarinet flutters, the piano emulates. When they exchange fours, it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Elsewhere, the interplay is equally enjoyable: “Moonglow” contains some of Davern’s warmest low-register tones, he soars on “DBR Drag” and “All by Myself,” and some of the most inventive moments come in a tune seldom heard in Dixieland, “(There Is) No Greater Love.” Ah, but on “Pretty Baby,” Davern and Boeddinghaus conjure up the sound of Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson. Davern will be sorely missed.

Originally Published