Kenny Davern Biography

John Kenneth Davern, 7 January 1935, Huntington, New York, USA, d. 12 December 2006, Sandia Park, New Mexico, USA. A professional musician at the age of 16, Davern worked with Jack Teagarden and Phil Napoleon in the mid-50s, moving on to play with Henry ‘Red’ Allen and Buck Clayton. In the early 60s he led his own small group and also played with the Dukes Of Dixieland. Later in the decade he worked with Ruby Braff. In the early 70s, he teamed up with Bob Wilber to form Soprano Summit. This band featured Davern and Wilber on clarinets, occasionally altos, but, as the name implies, mostly soprano saxophones. Backed by a variety of rhythm sections, Soprano Summit made a string of enormously successful concert and festival dates and numerous record albums, which enjoyed good sales. In 1979 the partnership ended and Davern thereafter concentrated more on clarinet. Throughout the 80s and into the 90s, Davern led several small groups, played briefly in the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, co-led the Blue Three, with Bobby Rosengarden and Dick Wellstood, and toured and recorded extensively.

Although best remembered by many fans for his work with Wilber, all of which displayed staggering technical dexterity and magnificent musicianship, Davern was a fully-rounded artist whose latter-day clarinet-playing showed him to have been one of the hottest players on this instrument. Although his early work was in the traditional area of jazz, and most of his later work was in the mainstream, Davern showed himself to be attuned to new musical developments and his enormous technical proficiency allowed him to play confidently in any style. Very much his own man, and with a devastatingly accurate and pungent wit, Davern was one of a short but important line in dynamic, contemporary clarinettists whose strong feeling for the past did not deter them from experimenting with new ideas.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.