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Reviewers: Don Mather, Tony Augarde, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby

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Arbors Jazz ARCD 19317




1. If Dreams Come True
2. The Diner
3. I Canít Believe That Youíre in Love with Me
4. Comes Love
5. Should I?
6. Sometimes Iím Happy
7. High Society
8. Crazy Rhythm
9. Nobody Else But Me
10. Muskrat Samba
Kenny Davern - Clarinet
Ken Peplowski - Clarinet, tenor sax
Howard Alden - Guitar, banjo
James Chirillo - Guitar, banjo
Nicki Parrott - Bass
Tony DeNicola - Drums

The clarinet is an instrument which has been through some strange vicissitudes during its career. It was very prominent in the 1930s, when clarinettists Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw fought for supremacy with their big bands. Somehow the clarinet waned in popularity when bebop came along, although the differing styles of such players as Buddy DeFranco and Jimmy Hamilton showed that the instrument could be expressive as well as versatile. We can be grateful that mainstream musicians like Kenny Davern and Ken Peplowski kept traditional styles of clarinet playing alive.

The sad death of Kenny Davern last December makes this CD even more poignant. It was the last studio album that Kenny recorded - in New York in June 2005. An extra sadness is that, just before he died, Davern dedicated the album to drummer Tony DeNicola, who had died shortly before.

Despite these sadnesses, it is a happy album, with the two Kens sparking off one another. The line-up is unusual: two reedmen and two guitarists plus bass and drums. The recording avoids the stodginess that sometimes results from chugging guitars (remember the Hot Club of France?). Australian bassist Nicki Parrott adds to the sturdy bass-line, consistently keeping the rhythm moving, and contributing a gorgeous solo to I Canít Believe That Youíre in Love with Me.

Ken Peplowski plays tenor sax on several tracks, blending well with Davernís clarinet and even helping to moderate any shrill moments. The two men duet on clarinets in Should I?, working with perfect empathy. They play clarinets again for High Society, seamlessly negotiating Alphonse Picouís famous variations. On this track, the two guitarists take up banjos, which they play rather cheekily - ranging in style from country music to George Formby, with some jocular swapped eights and fours. Crazy Rhythm is taken at a nice easy tempo, with contrasting solos from Kenny and Ken. It ends with a bass solo from Nicki Parrott which has a slightly crazy conclusion.

Nobody Else But Me is a feature for the two guitarists, who work in tandem with the same sort of unity as the two clarinettists. The closing Muskrat Samba is slightly marred by the drummerís unsteady rimshots - and the unwanted click that overruns the ending - but the two clarinets of Davern and Peplowski compete in invention and wit. In fact this is overall a delightful album - full not only of expert musicianship but also good humour.

Tony Augarde


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