Kenny Davern-Eddie Higgins Quartet | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Kenny Davern-Eddie Higgins Quartet


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When bebop arrived a half century ago, it made swing and its predecessors--New Orleans jazz and its offshoots in Chicago and New York--sound suddenly old. And despite the occasional faddish revival, those forms stopped really evolving; they've become historical artifacts, and in a cable-modem world few musicians still trouble themselves to invoke the carefully crafted melodies of that bygone era. But Kenny Davern does, and his unhurried improvisations on vintage tunes are islands of meditation. Davern, though born 15 years after Charlie Parker, is a committed prebop clarinetist, a sort of latter-day Pee Wee Russell without quite so many quirks: he has a cooling molasses tone that pours out in layers, and even on uptempo tunes he seems to stand still while the music bustles around him. Many trad-jazz fans know Davern from the band Soprano Summit, where he and Bob Wilber traded soprano-sax solos during the 70s, but since the 80s he's devoted himself to his first love, the clarinet, and the sweet-and-dour expressivity that's its greatest strength. Musicians of Davern's proclivities rarely turn up at the Jazz Showcase, Chicago's bastion of bebop and beyond--but I don't expect him to go modern to fit in. His coleader, pianist and former Chicagoan Eddie Higgins, recognizes the impact of bop in his harmonies, but his light touch, elegant voicings, and crystalline rhythms reflect an earlier time; his solos hover between swing's profligate riff spinning and the thematic flow of more contemporary jazz. Few pianists provide more fascinating accompaniment without becoming intrusive. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 and 10 PM, next Friday and Saturday, July 2 and 3, 9 and 11 PM, and next Sunday, July 4, 4, 8, and 10 PM, Jazz Showcase, 59 W. Grand; 312-670-2473. NEIL TESSER

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Anthony.

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