The Sidney Bechet Society is sponsoring what promises to be a remarkable tribute to the late clarinetist Kenny Davern, whose jazz career spanned more than fifty years. Two concerts will be held at Symphony Space (that’s 2537 Broadway at 95th Street) on Wednesday, June 11, at 6:15 and 9:00.
Early and late in his career, Kenny was a forceful soloist — reaching astonishingly high notes on the clarinet with beautiful force, making sharp-edged remarks from the stage, turning off every microphone he could find, purling his way through delicate ballads, dramatic blues, and riotous stomps. But for more than one generation of jazz listeners, it’s impossible to think of Davern without having the name of Bob Wilber come right behind it. Here they are in a portrait, thirty or so years ago, when they were co-leading one of the best jazz groups imaginable, Soprano Summit, sparring partners and colleagues both:
Kenny was a powerful individualist, and the concerts feature very strong musical personalities. Happily for us, Wilber, who has just turned eighty, will be there! Then there’s the irreplaceable Dick Hyman on piano. I don’t recall seeing these two musicians on the same stage for a very long time, not since Hyman’s Perfect Repertory Quintet (PeeWee Erwin, Wilber, Milt Hinton, Bobby Rosengarden — names to conjure with) folded its tents.
But wait, there’s more — as they say in emails. A panorama of reeds will be handled by Dan Levinson and by Wilber’s protege Nik Payton. Getting equal time, and deserving it, will be the rollicking rhythm trio of Matt Munisteri, guitar; Vince Giordano, bass sax, aluminum string bass, vocals; Kevin Dorn, drums. (That rhythm trio was astonishing at the 2006 Atlanta Jazz Party: you could feel them rocking the suburbs.) I’ve never seen all these players together in the same place, and I predict great things, so I’ll be there with the Beloved.
The 6:15 show, I am told, is sold out, but the later concert is not. Tickets are $35, or $25 for Bechet Society members. Contact www.sidneybechet.org. for information. The Symphony Space website is, of course, www.symphonyspace.org., and the box office phone is 212.864.5400.