Kenny Davern

His family was mixed Jewish and Irish-Catholic. He was born in Huntington on Long Island. His maternal grandparents were originally from Vienna, Austria. Alfred Roth, his great-grandfather, was a colonel in Austro-Hungarian’s cavalry. This rank is the highest available to a Jew in Habsburg Imperial army. He heard Pee Wee Russell for the first time and was immediately convinced that he wanted a career as a jazz musician. At the age of 16, he joined the musician’s union, initially as a baritone player. After only a few days, he was able to make his first jazz recordings. He joined Jack Teagarden’s Band in 1954. He worked later with Pee Wee Erwin and Phil Napoleon before joining the Dukes of Dixieland, 1962. In the late 1960s, he was freelancing, working with Red Allen, Ralph Sutton and Yank Lawson, as well as his long-time friend Dick Wellstood. He had taken up the soprano and was soon joined by fellow reedman Bob Wilber at Dick Gibson’s Colorado Jazz Party. This resulted in the birth of one of the most influential jazz groups of 1970s, Soprano Summit. Wilber and Davern co-led the group, switching between clarinets and other saxophones. Soprano summit enjoyed a string of very successful concerts and record dates over the next five year. Davern, who was a clarinetist in the group, resigned from it in 1979. He preferred to play trios with drums and piano. In 1991, Davern’s collaboration with Bob Wilber led to the revival of Summit Reunion. Davern, who has been leading his own quartets since 1990, prefers the guitar over the piano in his rhythm section. He employed Bucky Pizzarelli and Howard Alden as well as James Chirillo as guitarists. He was inducted into Rutgers University’s Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997. In 2001, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of musical arts at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. Kenny Davern cites David Weber (principal solo clarinetist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra) as his greatest teacher. His musical interests extend beyond traditional jazz and swing music. He collaborated with Steve Swallow, Steve Lacy and Paul Motian to create Unexpected, a free jazz-inspired album. His accomplishments in jazz are not the only thing that he is proud of. He also has a vast knowledge of classical music, especially of Wilhelm Furtwangler’s work. Kenny Davern is a clarinet player who has been focusing on the clarinet. His sound is instantly recognisable because of his full tone and “woody” lower chalumeau register. He also has highly personal tone inflections, which allow him to hit clarinet notes that are far beyond the normal range. The New York Times called him “the best jazz clarinetist today” in the 1980s. Kenny passed away from a heart attack in his Sandia Park home, New Mexico. Text contributed by users is available under Creative Commons By–SA License. It may also be available under GNU FDL.

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