I had some funny comments about my last missive,but the best was from someone who said he/she had another reason for me to hide in my room-they burned copies of my CD!Actually,this is a tough one-in some cases,that’s the only way to hear music that’s not distributed well,and may draw future PAYING customers into the fold.With my old CDs on Concord Records,for example, they have little or no interest in their back catalog-they’ve deleted almost everything (not just mine),won’t let us buy the masters,and crank out cheesy compilations of songs that every jazz lover already has! But who am I to argue with success-just because I’ve recieved no quarterly statements of earnings,had tracks licensed for other use without my knowledge or approval,and keep remembering my last meeting with the then vice-president who had never even heard of the jazz producer George Avakian (I wanted him to man the helm of my last project for them),and,astoundingly,professed to never having heard the recordings associated with him (Miles Davis,Duke Ellington,Thelonius Monk,Louis Armstrong,etc.),I’M NOT BITTER!!!!!!!!!!!!But to you small cabal out there who remember the music I made for them,I say:Burn Away!!!(note to the legal dept. of Concord:I,of course,am just kidding-ahahhahahahahahhahahahahah)And good luck with your future projects-taking dead people’s notes and grafting them on to whatever sticks-enjoy your sales while you can!
We lost one of the great ones last week-Kenny Davern died suddenly of a heart attack at 71 years old.He was a true original both musically and personally,with an almost fanatical desire to tear down any walls of pretentiousness or pomposity around him.He was also funny,with a wicked sense of humor and a great laugh-I remember,years ago,going to a supposed “up-scale” restaurant with him,where you needed a thesaurus for the menu,and the food was even worse than the bad service.At the end of the meal,the waiter came up with the bill,and asked,”Do you need anything else?” Kenny looked him straight in the eye and said,”Yeah,how about a stomach-pump?”I was mortified and strangely proud/envious of him at the same time….There were also the constant battles with his chief nemesis,the Sound Man,which I think a small,morbid part of him secretly enjoyed-Why else would he wait until he got on the bandstand to inform the sound-man that there would be no microphones,jazz was meant to be acoustic,etc.(Although,fascinatingly,he used the microphone to make these announcements!!!)Of course,Kenny Davern had,unquestionably, the biggest sound I’ve ever heard on the clarinet,and so was proven right in most of these battles….
More importantly,no-one played like Kenny Davern.He had the great mis-fortune,largely because of the material he chose to interpret and the ignorance of many critics,of being labelled a “traditional” jazz player.There was nothing traditional about him-he was more knowledgeable about the mechanics of the clarinet than most repairmen,and utilized everything in and out of the book-false fingerings,harmonics,an astounding upper range,bends,lip-slurs,you name it-an astounding,and incredibly moving,musician.
When he was among us,he seemed larger than life-now,sadly,he truly is….
Until next time,take care-Ken Peplowski