Only a handful of clarinetists on today's jazz scene can be described as truly accomplished on the instrument, and Eddie Daniels is one of them. On Mean What You Say he is joined by two former Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra bandmates, Hank Jones and Richard Davis, on piano and bass, respectively. Rounding out this formidable group is drummer Kenny Washington, who takes few solos but complements the playing of his cohorts admirably.
Daniels also plays tenor saxophone on a few selections, including Thad Jones' title track, which opens the album. Thad's older brother Hank begins with a brief introduction before Daniels' dry-toned tenor enters with the head. Following the leader's solo, Jones adds a crisp, sparkling spot of his own. Daniels returns for some "eights with Washington.
While Daniels' tenor playing is more than competent, his clarinet stylings truly shine throughout. On "It Had To Be You, he glides effortlessly over the changes and navigates the upper register of the instrument with ease. This track also features a splendid cadenza where you can hear his fingers clacking on the keys. Daniels proves equally adept at navigating the quicker tempos, as evidenced by the fleet "Nagasaki. Jones' playing on this piece shows his extensive knowledge of earlier piano styles.
The quartet as a whole is a cohesive unit; the rapport among the four musicians is substantial. Davis performs up to his usual high standards, playing what is needed when it is needed, all with taste and a great sound. Washington, meanwhile, delivers some beautiful brushwork.
Other highlights include the Daniels/Jones duet "Why You..., where they play a unison theme statement; and Charlie Parker's "My Little Suede Shoes, where Daniels fashions a neat solo introduction. "Virtuoso" is a term that should be used when describing Daniels' clarinet work, and this album is a prime example.
Personnel: Eddie Daniels: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Hank Jones: piano; Richard Davis: bass; Kenny