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Eddie Daniels: The Accidental Clarinetist

Eddie Daniels
Eddie Daniels (Photo courtesy of Resonance Records)

On a Monday night in the spring of 1967, a brilliant young woodwind player was on the bandstand at the Village Vanguard when he was struck with the sudden inspiration to take a solo on clarinet—even though he was expected to play tenor saxophone. The soloist was Eddie Daniels and the ensemble was the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, in the early days of its residency at the legendary New York jazz club.

Daniels remembers, “It was a very fast tune, ‘[The] Little Pixie.’ Each of us in the sax section—Joe Farrell, then Jerry Dodgion, then Jerome Richardson, and then me—had to solo for one chorus of rhythm changes. I totally surprised everyone, including myself, because it was [recorded] live. Later on, Mel told me that Thad had said to him, ‘What the hell did he do that for?’ But then, he loved the solo.”

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