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Kenny Davern
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Kenny Davern remains the premier Jazz clarinetist of his generation. Read more.

Meet The Artist
Watch an exclusive video interview with Kenny Davern

Listen to an audio version

"I've had a romantic thing about the clarinet ever since I heard Artie Shaw's Clarinet Concerto being played on the radio," says clarinetist Kenny Davern. "Then I heard clarinetists Pee Wee Russell, Irving Fazola, Johnny Dodds - and that just whacked me between the eyes, and I've been dedicated to improvisation ever since." One of Davern's biggest influences was David Weber. "He taught me the foundations of clarinet playing. He's wonderful. He's a direct link to the great tradition of clarinet playing." As a 16 year old professional, Davern would sit in with many of New York City's legendary groups, eventually landing himself a spot with Jack Teagarden's Band. He played with Phil Napoleon's band the next year, and soon began to form his own jazz groups. The late '50s and early '60s saw Davern working with dozens of the jazz world's top performers, including Billy Butterfield, Pee Wee Erwin, Ruby Braff, Eddie Condon, Ted Lewis, the Dukes of Dixieland, George Wettling, "Wild Bill" Davison, Bud Freeman, Shorty Baker, and many others. In the late '60s, Davern continued to play in and around New York City at top clubs like Nick's, and at festivals around the country. It was in 1973 that Soprano Summit released their first album, and in 1975 the unique group was officially formed. Davern and reed star Bob Wilber were perfect partners, and Soprano Summit's short life made a huge impact on the jazz world. After Soprano Summit, Davern began touring Europe and playing festivals around the world. He performed for President Carter at the White House in the late '70's, and in the early '80s he formed The Blue Three with Dick Wellstood and Bobby Rosengarden. After he released an album and toured Britain with the group, Davern spent most of the rest of the decade in high demand at clubs, concerts, and festivals with the likes of Trummy Young, Yank Lawson, and Charlie Byrd. He has played Carnegie Hall numerous times and performed on several soundtracks, including Mighty Aphrodite, The Gig, and The Hustler, in which he also appeared. Davern was inducted into the American Jazz Hall of Fame in 1997. Always busy, Davern is a master at playing virtually all of the saxophone family (having studied with Joe Napoleon), but has concentrated mostly on his incredible clarinet talents. Though he incorporates modern techniques and developments into his music, he never forgets his traditional roots. "I guess I'm a boss eclectic. I've tried to utilize all that's come before me to form something of my own," says Davern. "Jazz isn't something you can just label. You can ask ten people what jazz is and you'll get ten different answers. But to learn jazz, you have to be able to hear it. You can go to school and learn all of the harmonies and everything. It doesn't mean anything if you don't hear it."

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