Tom Sancton writes from Paris about the death of Kenny Davern:
I am very saddened by Kenny’s death. I met up with him this summer at a JVC concert called “Clarinet Marmalade.” Hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, but it was a warm, good-humored reunion. I gave him a signed copy of my book, which he appreciated. He played beautifully, and was gracious enough to praise my rendition of “Burgundy Street Blues” with George Wein on piano. It was a memorable occasion and now it’s the last memory I will have of this wonderful friend and exceptional musician.
I learned a lot from Kenny, listening to him, watching him, and especially talking to him about clarinet playing. He was a serious student of the instrument, its history, its repertoire. He had dozens of clarinets, and delighted in trading or selling them to someone who appreciated them and wanted to give them the love and attention he thought they deserved. Among the musicians who have wound up with some of Kenny’s horns are Woody Allen, Evan Christopher, and myself–and doubtless many others. I still use a case he gave me years ago. When I met him backstage at the JVC concert in June, he recognized it and, with that devilish grin of his, caressed its surface as if it were still one of his mistresses.
His relationship to the clarinet was, in fact, a sensual and loving relationship. Which is why he was able to coax so much feeling and sensitivity out of the instrument. It is true that there will never be another Kenny Davern, either as a musician or as a personality, or, in my case, as a friend. Thanks for giving him the credit he deserved and did not always receive.