Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway: Just Friends (Resonance)

Review of live recording by clarinetist and pianist from the Village Vanguard in 1988

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Cover of Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway album Just Friends

Eddie Daniels left his tenor sax in the case during the 1980s and devoted more time to his clarinet. The move paid off, and he pushed the instrument into new territories far beyond its typically honored tradition. There are moments on this recording, during his original “Reverie for a Rainy Day,” where Daniels creates such a rich, full-bodied sound that it doesn’t even sound like a clarinet but like some obscure instrument from a hidden corner of the world. It’s one of many such surprises that occurred on a Saturday night in November 1988 at the Village Vanguard.

Onstage with him were pianist Roger Kellaway, who had only recently struck up a musical rapport with Daniels, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster. George Klabin, now the president of Resonance Records, was in the audience that night and got permission from Daniels to record the set. Though he only had a cassette recorder perched on a table and rigged with a Sony stereo microphone, Klabin managed to capture the nuances of the music and the energy of the quartet.

The set consists of straight-ahead material, but the interactivity among the players elevates it beyond standard fare. The rapid onslaught of notes in Kellaway’s “The Spice Man” nearly evokes a bebop spoof, but during the solos, particularly Williams’ bowed showcase, the message is serious business. “Wolfie’s Samba” inspires the quartet by combining a Mozart clarinet piece with a samba groove. For “Just Friends,” the group creates an epic 18-minute testimony that begins with an abstraction on the theme and continues through unaccompanied clarinet and piano solos. Kellaway in particular charts a free, outward direction here, while maintaining his detailed sense of melody. Like all Resonance releases, this one includes a comprehensive booklet of notes and interviews that add perspective to a great night at the Vanguard.

Preview, buy or download songs from the album Just Friends by Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway on iTunes.