Eddie Daniels: Mean What You Say

It has been 39 years since I saw the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis band with Daniels on tenor saxophone. Since then he has established himself as a clarinet virtuoso adept in both classical music and jazz. This album, his first straightahead jazz date in a decade, reunites him with fellow Jones-Lewis band charter members Hank Jones (piano) and Richard Davis (bass), with Kenny Washington on drums. In a word, Daniels dazzles.

There are eight tracks on clarinet, four on tenor, and Daniels dances through each with a fluency that evidences an instant mind-spirit-instrument connection. His clarinet tone and lines bespeak his classical training: the arpeggios, the flutelike high register, the nuances of attack and timbre, the balance of delicacy and bravura display. His tenor, no less virtuosic, is robust and hard-charging with a pronounced attack. The tenor tracks include the title cut (by Thad Jones), “My One and Only Love,” “You and the Night and the Music” and “How Deep Is the Ocean.”

The group swings definitively, from the easy-going lilt of “It Had to Be You” to the fast-paced “Nagasaki” to the Latin groove of Charlie Parker’s “My Little Suede Shoes.” Jones’ playing is neat, articulate, focused and ever tasteful.

Let’s hope Daniels doesn’t wait another decade to release the next one.