Without going overseas to pad the list (Don Byron, Buddy DeFranco or Ken Peplowski may win some stateside polls and honors; Antti Sarpila and Putte Wickman won’t), one can count the number of outstanding contemporary Jazz clarinetists on the fingers of one hand. One of the best of them is Eddie Daniels, heir–apparent in the Goodman / DeFranco / Tony Scott dynasty of unvarnished swingers who pays earnest homage to the instrument’s heyday on Swing Low Sweet Clarinet, ably supported by Germany’s world–class Frankfurt Radio (hr) Big Band. Daniels is no stranger to large ensembles, having spent half a dozen years as a sideman (mainly on tenor sax) in the Thad Jones–Mel Lewis Orchestra and recorded previously with the Jazz Arts Group of Columbus, OH, and even the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He’s right at home here too, deftly weaving his spellbinding phrases through and around the hr band’s tailor–made arrangements (including two by Jazzmeister Peter Herbolzheimer). Daniels opens with a tune closely associated with clarinetist Artie Shaw, Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine,” and closes with a Goodman classic, Louis Prima’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” (performed in concert, with drummer Wolfgang Haffner depping admirably for Gene Krupa). Sandwiched between are studio versions of Goodman’s haunting theme song, “Goodbye,” and two more of the King of Swing’s memorable hits, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and “Stardust,” along with former employer Thad Jones’ “Three in One,” Denny Zeitlin’s “Quiet Now,” and a pair of Daniels’ own compositions, the Swing Era–style “Stride Rite” (which suggests at times the standard “This Is Always”) and the sunny “Waltz for Marabai.” If Daniels has an Achilles heel, it may be that he makes playing virtuosic clarinet seem so preposterously easy. Because of this, he sounds deceptively laid–back and is open to the charge (which has been made) that he is short on soul. To lay that accusation to rest, simply listen to “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Comparatively speaking, the other selections may sound almost nonchalant, but on the other hand you’ll seldom hear a clarinet played any better. Toss in the hr Big Band as a bonus and slap a “Grade A” label on this one.
Track Listing: Begin the Beguine; Stompin
Personnel: Eddie Daniels, clarinet, with the Frankfurt Radio (hr) Big Band, Kurt Bong, conductor; Harry Petersen, Heinz Dieter Sauerborn, alto sax; Wilson de Oliveira, Tony Lakatos, tenor sax; John Oslawski, baritone sax; Paul Lanzerath, Martin Auer, Alexandre Molempr