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Dave Bennett: Dave Bennett Celebrates 100 Years of Benny

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The fact that Dave Bennett never met his idol, Benny Goodman, is sad, but totally plausible; Dave was all of two when Benny checked out in 1986. Since then, with only minimal professional help, Bennett taught himself how to play clarinet, adding other reeds and guitar along the way. Whatever influences Bennett absorbed can be heard and felt here on his third album as a leader; the first two were also devoted to his strongest influence, naturally, Benny.

Up-tempo tracks will probably receive more airplay — tunes like “Benny’s Bugle,” “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” “I Got Rhythm” and of course, “Sing, Sing Sing.” But the slow tracks are more memorable because they are so warm, so intimate, and just plain beautiful. Among those gems: “In A Sentimental Mood, “Poor Butterfly,” “My Funny Valentine” and “Moonlight in Vermont.” All of those ballads are graced by Bennett’s exquisite tone, particularly in the throaty register, plus the sensitive comping of pianist Bill Meyer and special guests, pianist Dick Hyman and guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli. Hyman illuminates the album with his relentlessly swinging accompaniments. The “conversation” on “That’s A Plenty” between Bennett and Hyman — at a tempo marking of “white heat,” — proves to be the up-tempo high point of the CD. Many solo peaks can be found in “Sing, Sing, Sing,” where that classic orchestral chart is reduced to bare essentials: clarinetist Bennett, pianist Hyman and drummer Ed Metz, Jr. In essence, Metz has the most stretch-out room; his pulsating tom-tom beat lasts the entire 13 minutes of the track.

But this is Dave’s tour de force: the 26-year-old clarinetist not only exudes confidence among giants such as Hyman and Pizzarelli, but also contributes mightily to the driving swing in various combo configurations from trio to sextet worthy of his personal icon. The album could easily have been called “Tribute to Bennett.”

Originally Published