By Ric Bang
Buy CD: Live at the Library of Congress
There are musicians, famous musicians and icons; Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway fall into the latter category. Both are 70-something years young; both have classical and jazz backgrounds.
Daniels’ first instrument was the alto sax, which he played in the Newport Jazz Youth Festival at age 15; he had added clarinet to his arsenal upon entering college, and he subsequently included the tenor sax, which was his horn when hired by the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis band. Since the 1980s, however, Daniels has concentrated on the clarinet.
Kellaway’s experience began in the classical genre, then expanded into pop and jazz. His early love was the piano (at age 7), but he also studied the double bass; his first “road” job was as a bassist. After several years, however, he returned to the piano. His early fame came as an accompanist to great vocalists such as Lena Horne and Tony Bennett, and Kellaway later became musical director for Bobby Darrin. But Kellaway truly shined as a composer; he has written scores for TV, films, ballets and concert orchestras, and has won Grammy Awards and their equivalent in France.
Daniels and Kellaway have performed together numerous times. Some time ago, I was blown away by another of their IPO releases (A Duet of One); this new album, performed live in Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress, is its equal.
Performances at that facility are quite an honor, and more than 2,000 have taken place over the years. Attendance is usually free, so attendance usually is standing-room only. These concerts cater to all aspects of the arts, but jazz performances are relatively limited.
This performance features 10 well known and much-loved compositions: jazz standards (“Rhythm-a-ning,” by Thelonious Monk; “Just Friends” by Klenner & Lewis), show tunes (“Strike Up the Band,” by the Gershwins; “Somewhere,” by Leonard Bernstein; and “Pretty Women,” by Stephen Sondheim); traditional tunes (“America the Beautiful”); and originals by both Daniels and Kellaway. It’s a stunning collection and performance.
During the early years of jazz, the clarinet was a star instrument: Barney Bigard, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman are just a few of the famous names. But as time passed, and big bands proliferated, the alto, tenor and baritone saxes rose to prominence. Only a few top clarinetists remain, and Daniels is at the top of the list.
Kellaway also is a champion at his skill set. What more could one desire, than to hear these two artists together?