Homecoming: Eddie Daniels Live at the Iridium
Jazz fans know Eddie Daniels as the clarinetist who recorded a slew of easygoing albums for the GRP label in the ’80s and early ’90s. Two facts may be less well known about Daniels. First, musicians regard him as one of the top clarinetists of all time. Indeed, Daniels coaxes as much tone and range out of the difficult clarinet as any saxophonist. Second, Daniels is almost as skilled on tenor sax, the instrument he played in the ’60s and has again taken up in recent years. On this terrific two-disc live release, Daniels wields both reed instruments with jaw-dropping virtuosity backed by a killer band.
The title Homecoming refers to the fact that Daniels left his New Mexico home in October 2006 to record this album over several nights in his native New York, while celebrating his 65th birthday. Daniels has long favored a clarinet-vibes combination, and his interaction with vibraphonist Joe Locke makes for some spectacular moments. Clearly, the finessed playing of Tom Ranier (piano), Dave Finck (bass), and Joe La Barbera (drums) also inspires him.
The music ranges from full-throttle, Charlie Parker-style bebop to impressionistic ballads to beautiful, classical-leaning melodies. A stunning sax flurry opens the proceedings and foreshadows the fireworks to come on “Falling in Love With Love” and the clarinet burner “That’s For Afta.” An extended version of John Lewis’ “Django” fully achieves Daniels’ stated vision for the album: “the Modern Jazz Quartet with clarinet.” His exquisite sax blowing on the gorgeous “Warm Valley” rivals his clarinet playing on the Paul Desmond-esque “Chosen Words.”
Homecoming provides almost two hours of dazzling straightahead jazz and satisfies on many levels.
- Ed Kopp