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Bob Wilber and Kenny Davern: Reunion at Arbors

The Arbors reunion took place after the gathering of the faithful in Clearwater, Florida, in 1997. Such get-togethers clearly bring out something special from the two pricipals. Annotator Ross Forestone has elicted helpful comments on their differences from Davern, who here plays clarinet solely while Wilbur alternates on it to good effect but mostly sticks to soprano. Whatever the significance or proportion of the various influences, that of Bechet may often seem strong in Wilbur’s style and Jimmy Noone’s in Davern’s. Both men are melodists and take pains to establish-and swing-the theme before taking off in variations, just as Ben Webster did. There is nothing demeaning in this, and it gives audiences pleasure. There is, after all, both vanity and satisfaction in impressing other musicians with gymnastic improvisations on intricate chord sequences unfamiliar to the average listener. The staunch rhythm backing in this case by Bucky Pizzarelli, Bob Haggart, Ed Metz, and Dave Frishberg helps an exciting groove when riff choruses are reached. Frishberg is witty, thoughtful, yet not afraid to rumble (as on “The Sheik”). In individual showcases, Davern does a tenderly melancholy “I Want a Little Girl” and Wilbur his moving “Dear Sidney”. This last, graceful number should be taken up by others. The unidentified whistler on “Sentimental Journey” must be from Winnetka.

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