Soprano Summit: Chalumeau Blue
Soprano Summit (Chiaroscuro 148)
Marty Grosz (acoustic guitar), George Duvivier (bass), Fred Stoll (drums).
Composed by Bob Wilber.
Recorded: New York, March 30, 1976
Rating: 96/100 (learn more)
From 1972 until they disbanded in 1979, Soprano Summit was the finest traditional/swing band of its kind, in great demand at jazz festivals and other venues worldwide. They reunited occasionally years later as Summit Reunion, the name changed because Kenny Davern had by then abandoned the soprano, playing clarinet exclusively. As Soprano Summit, he and co-leader Bob Wilber both doubled on soprano and clarinet. Wilber was heavily influenced by Sidney Bechet, while Davern was more in tune with the eccentric style of Pee Wee Russell and the more modern approach of Steve Lacy. Indeed, Wilber had performed with Bechet, and Davern recorded with Lacy.
The chalumeau was an early single-reed wind instrument, the forerunner of the clarinet. The term "chalumeau" later defined the lower register of the modern clarinet. On Wilber's "Chalumeau Blue," the two clarinetists play the soothing, ingratiating theme with a loping, almost martial rhythmic backing, their lines intertwining delightfully in the lower "chalumeau" register. Davern's solo, however, is all upper-register virtuosity, his phrases darting and swooping in typically unpredictable fashion. Wilber remains loyal to the lower depths of his instrument for his more sedate but no less winning solo, before Davern – still in the upper register – joins him for a breathtaking dual improvisation. They meet again in "chalumeau" for a reprise of the melody. They just don't make groups like this anymore, or at least not nearly as good.
Reviewer: Scott Albin