Duke at the Roadhouse Live In Santa Fe
Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway

Eddie Daniels was a promising young tenor saxophonist with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1966 when he was invited to participate in a jam session in New York led by Duke Ellington. 56 years later, Daniels' fond memories of that occasion helped him decide upon an all-Ellington program for a 2012 duo concert with pianist Roger Kellaway for the benefit of the Santa Fe Center for Therapeutic Riding (horses, that is). Daniels wisely chose to add cellist James Holland for certain selections in order to take advantage of Kellaway's proven skill at writing for that instrument (including solos), which he first displayed on his praised Cello Quartet albums in the '70's. Now considered one of the finest clarinetists in jazz, Daniels, and the stylistically unfettered Kellaway perform seven Ellington-penned tunes (plus "Perdido"), and each contributed one related original as well. Their creative approach makes the familiar compositions sound just as fresh as the newer material. Those familiar with their previous two live recordings (A Duet of One, and LIve at the Library of Congress) should know what to expect, but everyone will find this latest CD a rewarding and often surprising listening experience.

Daniels plays the melody of "I'm Beginning to See the Light" rather methodically with woody resonance on clarinet, before Kellaway joins him for a whirlwind, counterpoint interlude. Daniels' technical command is stunningly apparent in his intricate swooping and swinging solo, with Kellaway in robust allegiance, The clarinetist concludes with an unaccompanied rumination, and then the pianist is off and running with zestful abandon. The final exchanges prior to the reprise are delightfully refreshing and exhibit the duo's unbeatable rapport. Kellaway's rumbling barrrelhouse piano complements Daniels' rich reading of "Creole Love Call." Daniels works wonders with a thematic motif during his solo, while Kellaway's exploration is lyrically enchanting. The clarinetist's succinct coda chirps, bubbles, and awes. "Perdido," the first of the tracks with cellist Holland on board, has a chamber music opening, as Holland handles the bridge and otherwise weaves harmonically through Daniels' theme delivery. Daniels' nimble, multi-faceted improv is enhanced by Holland's deep tones, until his clarinet goes it alone with prancing articulation. Holland plays his written "solo" with convincing spirit and emotional content. Kellaway's solo characteristically uses various devices and stylistic borrowings to get its point across. The last brilliantly arranged contrapuntal section somehow makes these three musicians sound like a much larger ensemble.

"Duke at the Roadhouse" was named after Harry's Roadhouse in Santa Fe, a place that reminds Daniels of the Greenwich Village setting of his 1966 encounter with Duke. The undulating, sinuous theme from the composer's clarinet leads right into his chortling, purling solo, which is followed by Kellaway's thunderous response. Daniels' tenor lovingly intones the melody of "In a Mellow Tone," next visited by Holland, who takes the first solo (another one artfully conceived by Kellaway). The saxophonist's riveting unaccompanied flight is mirrored by the pianist's own restless but lucid take. The reprise is good to the last drop. Kellaway sets the initial temper for "In a Sentimental Mood" with a Latin rhythm, only to have the theme appear luxuriously chamber-style in alternating patterns between him, Daniels, and Holland. Daniels' clarinet solo is variegated in its attack--biting, winding, and relentlessly probing. Holland's ingratiating part garners applause, and Kellaway succeeds him at his most melodically incisive. The recap is made unpredictable by its diverse harmonic textures. On tenor, Daniels plays a provocative intro to "Sophisticated Lady" that teases the melody with gruff abandon, before finally mellowing out somewhat on the theme itself. Kellaway's sparse comping gives Daniels plenty of room in his subsequent brashly searching examination, bowing out entirely for the horn's satisfying coda.

Kellaway's "Duke in Ojai" bears a "Giant Steps"-like modal scale that Daniels ponders in a manner that is somehow both relaxed and technically assertive. The pianist then unfurls a solo that is all over the map structurally and rhythmically, but keenly focused in its purpose at the same time. Daniels paraphrases the melody of "Mood Indigo" to start, and Holland enters in a similar vein with a sweetly sentimental tone. The two trade passages above Kellaway's sympathetic chords to the soothing resolution of this 2:38 appetizer. The arrangement of "It Don't Mean a Thing" has an impressionistic drawing room quality, refined with Daniels and Kellaway in delicate interaction, until the pair roll up their sleeves to swing mightily for the duration. Daniels' complex lines and Kellaway's substantial supporting phrases heard here are a high point of this CD, as is the pianist's own churning solo, and the ending segment that is an astonishing, technically challenging demonstration of the two masters' precision and daring.

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Scott Albin