Thirty years ago, when I worked at Columbia University, I would often walk a few…
John D. Rockefeller once said, “A friendship founded on business is better than a business founded on friendship.” Full disclosure: Eddie Daniels is my friend.
I met Eddie when he was recording for GRP Records in the 1980s, after he had already released a half-dozen albums as a leader and appeared as a sideman on a slew of Mel Lewis/Thad Jones and Bob James albums during the ’60s and ’70s. I enjoyed his playing on alto and tenor sax even before reckoning with his uncanny brilliance on clarinet. As it was my business to learn all I could about the world’s great jazz musicians, after acquiring his number from an acquaintance, I picked up the phone and called him. Back then, Eddie and I would talk for hours about music and life in general. He’d tell me stories about his early days, how he trained intensely to master his instruments and how he focused exclusively on one or another of those instrument for years at a time. The more I got to know him, the more I’d dig into his albums. For years I’d listen to some of them — like The Five Seasons — again and again.
As the founder and publisher of this magazine, I’ve long had the rare and much-appreciated privilege of being able to make a phone call — or, more commonly these days, send an email — and receive a quick response in return from almost any jazz artist. (My wife thinks this is why I keep publishing). By now, it would be easy to fill each issue of JAZZIZ with nothing but coverage of the friends I’ve made over the years. Thankfully, my editors do a great job of preventing that from happening. Still, as part of my job, I regularly contact musicians when I hear the great music they’ve made.
And sometimes I leverage my access to artists for other things. Eddie figures into one example of that. About 10 years ago, my wife and I were at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco when we came across an old man sitting on a stool, playing clarinet, on one of the docks. He had set a bucket in front of him for tips. We listened for a while, threw an Andrew Jackson in the bucket, and then I asked him who was his favorite clarinetist. He replied, “Well, Eddie Daniels of course.” At that, I pulled out my phone and placed a call to Eddie. When he answered, we exchanged quick hellos before I asked if he’d care to say hello to one of his biggest fans, at which point I handed the phone to the old man. The delight in his eyes made me so grateful for the friendship that Eddie and I shared.
When I placed Eddie’s latest album on the top of my Critics’ Picks list in this issue, I did so because it’s my business — and pleasure — to pick an album that’s worthy of your attention. In selecting that particular album, though, I’m proud to add that Eddie Daniels is my friend. —Michael Fagien