Thursday, January 3, 2008

Eddie Daniels: Homecoming — Live at the Iridium

IPO Recordings
By Ric Bang • Originally published in The Davis Enterprise, 1.3.08
Buy CD: Homecoming: Live at the Iridium

It has been so long since I've heard a really great clarinetist, that I'd forgotten what one sounds like. 

Enter Eddie Daniels. 

He has been around for quite awhile, but when I first encountered him, he was playing tenor sax with the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band. He was "merely" another of the excellent tenor players working at that time (1966-73), and I kind of lost track of him. 

Then, in the 1980s, Daniels put his sax in the closet and concentrated on clarinet. And even though he subsequently released a number of albums featuring that instrument, I wasn't aware of any until this "Homecoming" release. Shame on me! 

I grew up in the big band era, when "the" clarinetists were Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Well, Daniels makes both of them sound like high-school kids. And because this album is pure, straight-ahead jazz — the kind Goodman and Shaw played — you can judge my assessment for yourself. 

You have plenty from which to make such a comparison; this double-CD release contains 15 tracks, half a dozen of them jazz standards. 

Daniels' quintet consists of him on both clarinet and tenor sax, Joe Locke on vibes, Tom Ranier on piano, Dave Finch on bass and Joe La Barbera on drums. These guys swing like crazy, and the fact that the album was recorded live at New York's Iridium just makes it better 

Daniels thought highly of the Modern Jazz Quartet, and three of these tracks illustrate that fact. You'll hear two versions of that group's famous "Django," written by MJQ pianist John Lewis: one an extended, 14-minute cut that's just marvelous; and a 7-minute bonus track. They're accompanied by "Déjà vu MJQ," written by Roger Kellaway. 

Daniels wrote three of the other tunes; the rest include Ellington, Cole Porter and Rogers & Hart melodies. 

I can't give more than five stars, but this is the best album I heard in 2007. Even the liner notes and CD design are superior.

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