Joe Licari has been a top clarinetist for over 60 years although widespread fame seems to have eluded him. How many musicians still on the scene today worked with Wild Bill Davison, Roy Eldridge, Vic Dickenson, and Big Chief Russell Moore? Licari, who long ago formed his own sound within the swing/Dixieland/classic jazz tradition, is still in his playing prime despite being 85, and he is a regular fixture in New York’s trad jazz scene.
Swing It, Brother, Swing!! has minimal packaging but it does not matter much when the music is this enjoyable. On a set of duets with pianist Mark Shane, Licari could pass for a clarinetist half his age. A melodic player whose style dates back to the 1930s, he has no difficulty stating melodies fairly straight with a bit of swing and then improvising off of the themes.
A special treat is the repertoire, a program of mostly obscure treasures from the 1920s and ’30s. Other than “Sugar” and Sidney Bechet’s “Si Tu Vois Ma Mere” (which has made a comeback due to its inclusion in Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris movie), none of the songs is played very regularly these days. It is a pleasure hearing high-quality versions of such gems as “Please,” “Waitin’ For Katy,” “You Were Only Passing Time With Me,” “That Rhythm Man,” and “A Melody From The Sky.” Mark Shane offers Licari a solid foundation, striding a bit like Teddy Wilson, contributing complementary solos, and always keeping the rhythm steady and moving.
This is a very enjoyable set that swing fans will love.
Swing It, Brother, Swing!! (Self-released, 16 selections, TT = 54:13) www.joelicari.net