Review by Brad Walseth
One of the things that clarinetist Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway have in common is that despite being incredibly talented musicians who never fail to delight and amaze, they both somewhat fly under the radar. Daniels is considered to be perhaps the foremost practitioner of the clarinet (an instrument sadly on the outs since the days of Benny Goodman), while Kellaway is considered by many to be the greatest piano player you've never heard of: for some reason or combination of reasons, neither man is a household name and that is a shame. Last year, Kellaway released a stunning live recording that was one of the year's best (see our review here) and hopefully brought him some much-deserved attention. And one can only pray that this electrifying recording of duets, recorded live and unrehearsed at The Bakery in Los Angeles will continue to point the spotlight to both of these criminally under-appreciated players.
In performing this collection of songs, including the standards "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You" (the Tommy Dorsey theme song), Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans," "I Want to be Happy" and a wild rendition of the burlesque treat "After You've Gone," along with three written by Daniels, two by Kellaway and even a Daniels reworking of Albinioni's Adagio, the men eschewed all but a handful of lead sheets. In fact, according to Pacquito Rivera's liner notes, they had nothing written and neither had ever even played "I'm Getting Sentimental" which opens the album in astonishing fashion.
The depth of playing here, which combines the sheer joy of jazz with the sheen and skill of the great classical masters is quite amazing and will keep the listener entertained and enthralled. You simply do not hear players in the jazz genre who play like this anymore. The opener will make your jaw drop, but Daniels' "Slow Dance" will make your hair stand on end, as both players produce some of the most beautiful notes any human has ever produced. Nor do these players simply recreate beautiful melodies, but rather take musical adventures such as the comical conversation they have during the intro to "I Want to be Happy." (I seriously think someone smarter than I could write an entire thesis on what these two do to this song.) Daniels plays like he has honey dripping from his lips, while Kellaway must have eight arms and at least two brains to go along with them. These are musicians of the highest order, who are deeply respectful of the past, but also are cognizant of the changes the world has gone through and do allow some seepage through. They are not content to simply recreate, but use the great architecture of the past to build upon and expand. Highly recommended.