Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dave Bennett Don't Be That Way Mack Avenue 2013

Dave Bennett gives true meaning to the term virtuoso and is bringing the clarinet out of the jazz witness protection program with Don't Be That Way. 
Brent Black /

Alice Cooper, Bob James and Stevie Ray Vaughn are not the typical influences sited by any woodwind player but it is this eclectic mix of lyrical thought that elevates Dave Bennett to perhaps a level of greatness that has not been heard since the clarinet was allowed to slip into relative obscurity since the days of Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. To meticulously blend traditional swing with pop oriented arrangements is a thing of beauty. Shelly Berger is the arranger for this release and his skills are indeed off the charts but were it not for the imaginative execution by perhaps the finest modern day clarinetist next to Julian Bliss then Berg's work would easily fall by the wayside.

Upon first glance there were several of the "expected" tunes covered by Bennett. I thought to myself, "Oh what fresh hell is this?" I was about as excited to receive this disc as I would be yet another female vocal jazz recording. Sometimes being totally wrong and walking into a release stone cold is the best thing for a critic. Dave Bennett has a deep rich tone that is as smooth as silk and creamy like butter. From his inventive use of his harmonic flow to an unexpected vocal charm, Dave Bennett is an artist to be taken very seriously! Two of the highlights from Don't Be That Way would include a more contemporary blues riff on "St. James Infirmary" with believable vocals and phrasing that is spot on. The Louis Prima classic "Sing, Sing, Sing" is not just reharmed but reinvented, this is Dave Bennett's tune to carry forward. Instead of the expected drum break that Gene Krupa seemingly invented, Bennett soars high with a solo that creatively acquires licks from Alice Cooper and Stevie Ray Vaughn but done his way. Even for the non-musical types it is blatantly obvious that Bennett hears changes and progressions far different than the average artist.

Mack Avenue remains on the cutting edge of contemporary instrumental music. Dave Bennett's Don't Be That Way is an important addition to literature for improvisational clarinet and will indeed encourage and bring new followers into the fold. Both Dave Bennett and the clarinet are out of the shadows and charting their own incredibly exciting lyrical path.

Easily best new artist of the year.
Tracks: Slipped Disc; Begin The Beguine; Don't Be That Way; Running Wild; St. James Infirmary; Yesterday; Sing, Sing, Sing; Woodchopper's Ball; My Inspiration; Goodbye; A Funeral In New Orleans; When The Saints Go Marching In.

Personnel: Dave Bennett: Clarinet, Vocals; Tad Weed: Piano; Paul Keller: Bass; Pete Siers: Drums; Reg Schwager: Electric and Acoustic Guitars; Shelly Berger: Arranger.