Kenny Davern

Never in a Million Years

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When risk-takers like Chick Corea and Pat Metheny fearlessly hurl themselves into a variety of musical situations, one cannot help but admire their sense of adventure. But at the same time, there is a lot to be said for playing with someone you have long enjoyed a strong rapport with -- and Kenny Davern certainly enjoyed a strong rapport with the late pianist Dick Wellstood. Recorded live at New York's Vineyard Theater in January 1984 -- only three years before Wellstood's death -- Never in a Million Years finds the improvisers joining forces for a concert of mostly clarinet/piano duets. This time, Davern sticks to the clarinet and doesn't play any soprano sax at all. Not many surprises occur, but the performances are predictably excellent -- and Davern and Wellstood are very much in sync on the usual swing repertoire (which includes "On the Sunny Side of the Street," Benny Goodman's "If Dreams Come True," and Earl Hines' "Rosetta"). Although this concert was recorded in the '80s, the performances recall the swing era of the '30s and early '40s -- Davern and Wellstood were never innovative, but they were always great at what they did. On a few occasions, one of the improvisers will lay out and give the other a chance to play by himself. That would be risky for lesser musicians, but for players of Davern and Wellstood's caliber, being occasionally unaccompanied is a good thing. Davern is triumphant when he delivers an unaccompanied clarinet solo on Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo," and Wellstood is equally successful when he plays by himself on a six-minute Ellington medley that unites "The Mooche" with "Birmingham Breakdown." But most of the time, Davern and Wellstood play together on this fine Dutch release.

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