A Duet of One: Live at the Bakery
Although the jazz catalog is not replete with clarinet/piano duos, Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway had a demonstrated affinity for each other prior to the run of shows they performed together in late March and early April 2005, gigs that have been condensed into the 73 minutes of A Duet of One. Both veteran musicians of a certain age (Daniels was 63 at the time, Kellaway 65), they have also taken individual paths in jazz bordering on classical music, Kellaway with his cello quartet in the 1970s, Daniels in devoting himself to the clarinet, an instrument out of fashion since the swing era. And, of course, they have played together before, notably on Daniels’ albums Memos From Paradise and To Bird With Love.
Still, Duet of One is a departure, very much a high-wire act for the two, who seem to be winging it. The standards that appear among the originals provide helpful touchstones; that is, when those familiar melodies turn up, however briefly, amid the dual improvising that takes up much of the disc. For example, the opener, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (an amusing choice, given that it was Tommy Dorsey’s theme song, and he was one of the great swing bandleaders who wasn’t a clarinetist) becomes recognizable as that tune only in its final seconds. On the other hand, “After You’ve Gone” makes a forceful appearance, coming after a rendering of Kellaway’s “This Is the Time.”
Much of the time, Daniels and Kellaway are merrily playing away, seemingly unaware of each other, which probably helps explain the album’s title: These are “duets,” but the players are really soloists.