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Interview:
Waterford clarinetist Dave Bennett embraces tradition on new album
 

by GARY GRAFF
@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

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Waterford clarinetist Dave Bennett has put together shows in which he plays the music of Benny Goodman and other 1940s swing masters such as Pete Fountain and Artie Shaw. So it's not surprising that "Don't Be That Way," his new album and first for Detroit's Mack Avenue Records, is an amalgam of all that.

And beyond.

"The idea was to get something that would feature the music of everybody that I do, as far as the jazz thing goes," says Bennett, 29, whose album comes out Oct. 15. "The original idea was to do something that was a little more traditional and kind of reflected the music as it was played then, but by the time we got to the studio we realized it was going to be taking the songs and updating them.

"I'm really glad it happened that way. I'm still finding my own voice, but I think it stands on my own rather than just being some rote recitation of exactly how these pieces sounded in the past."

Bennett, a former member of the Hot Club of Detroit, credits that result to Toronto arranger Shelly Berger, who he says helped whip tracks such as "Slipped Disc," "Begin the Beguine," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "When the Saints Go Marching In" and versions of the Beatles' "Yesterday" and Van Morrison's "St. James Infirmary" into distinctive shape for Bennett and the quintet that accompanied him during the sessions.

"I play all different types of music -- rockabilly, pop, blues, gospel -- and I wanted to do something different," says Bennett, who met Berger through pianist Tad Weed. "Tad bold me, 'I know a guy who really thinks the way you do,' so I met Shelly and realized we think the same way except I don't have arranging abilities and he's a master at it.

"So each tune I'd say, 'This is the kind of feel I want' or 'This is the idea.' I might point him towards other songs I like that aren't jazz and say 'give it this kind of atmosphere,' and he totally did. I left the ball in his court, trusted him to do that and everything he did was what I wanted to do but was incapable of communicating."

Dave Bennett celebrates the release of "Don't Be That Way" at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, at the Dirty Dog, 97 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe. Cover is $20. Call 313-882-5299 or visit www.dirtydogjazz.com. Bennett will also perform at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28, at Peabody's, 34965 Woodward Ave., Birmingham. Admission is free. Call 248-644-5222.

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