Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway – Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard – Resonance Records 

by | Sep 29, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway – Just Friends: Live at the Village Vanguard – Resonance Records HCD 2028, 57:57  – [Recording Date: 11/26/88, Street Date: 9/29/17] ****1/2:

Another sharp arrow in Resonance Records’ quiver…

(Eddie Daniels – clarinet; Roger Kellaway – piano; Buster Williams – bass;  Al Foster – drums)

George Klabin and Zev Feldman the “jazz detectives” at Resonance Records, continue to provide the jazz community with previously unissued jazz recordings, largely from the 1970s through the end of the 20th Century. Many of them were recorded in Europe from the vaults of radio and TV stations on the continent. Their latest release comes from much closer to the jazz mecca in the US, New York City. It was recorded by Klabin himself, who revisited it recently, and decided it was too good not to share with jazz fans.

Klabin sat in the front row of the Village Vanguard club, armed only with a Dolby cassette recorder and a single Sony electric condenser microphone. The finished recording provides a perfectly acceptable document of an outstanding set from a remarkable quartet of Eddie Daniels on clarinet, Roger Kellaway on piano, Buster Williams on bass, and Al Foster on drums. The sound mix highlights Daniels and Kellaway, and Williams’ solos retain their resonance (no pun intended). Only Foster is a bit distant in the mix, Capturing the acoustics with a single microphone was a remarkable achievement.

Eddie Daniels has never got his due as a clarinetist, as the instrument is not often enough featured as the primary instrument in a recording session. The saxophone is much more prevalent (Daniels also plays an exemplary sax). However, recently, Anat Cohen, has stepped up, reinvigorating the clarinet’s cachet. That’s good news.

This Nov. 26, 1988 recording is a pleasure to audition. It has four masters of their craft sharing their prowess. Eddie is often center stage, but this dream rhythm section more than holds their own. Kellaway has done it all, ranging from film scores, studio work, and first call accompanist. Since the 1960s he has played with Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery, Sonny Rollins and many others. He also served a stint as musical director for Bobby Darin. Equally at home on the classical stage with his Cello Quartet, he is a consummate pro.

This new CD features only five tracks and covers nearly an hour, so each member is featured, and they can really stretch out. It opens with “Some O’ This & Some O’ That”, a Kellaway tune. Daniels glides over the changes with an airy swinging tone, like a butterfly dancing in the sunlight. Buster Williams is rock steady, as always. Kellaway’s tremolo sections entice as well. The next two tracks are significant as it is noted that they have not been recorded since that night. Both were composed by Daniels. “Reverie for a Rainy Day” is a sumptuous ballad that has Eddie emoting with a sensuous tone that can only be compared to Johnny Hodges. “Wolfie’s Samba” was inspired by the second movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet. It progresses from a pure classical motif towards a Brazilian Samba feel. Both Williams and Foster contribute.

“Just Friends” at nearly 18 minutes in length, has an exploratory beginning with Daniels   darting out in a probing manner before Kellaway joins in testing the water. The familiar melody is then enhanced, and each member of the quartet has a musical conversation, like friends regaling each other and kicking up their heels. Williams’ extended bass solo is prominent.

The closer, written by Roger, “The Spice Man” is like a 4th of July rocket in its intensity compared to the previous four tracks. Each member throws down. Buster’s arco solo begins like a hornet’s nest just opened, before getting sonorously somber. Roger’s solo improv demands rapt attention. Daniels shows remarkable breath control and his solos would be a proper test for a clarinetist’s Master’s degree. Al Foster has his most extended solo of the evening. As you can see, all bases were covered.

Jazz clarinet fans, as well as those appreciating a first rate dream rhythm section, will find lots to like in this new Resonance issue. As usual, there are extensive liner notes and archival photos that set a standard for other labels to envy.

Some O’ This And Some O’ That
Reverie for a Rainy Day
Wolfie’s Samba
Just Friends
The Spice Man

—Jeff Krow

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