Full disclosureI am far from an expert on Motown music, having pretty much lived in a jazz bubble. And this album is a salute to some of Detroit
's legends including The Jackson Five, The Four Tops, The Temptations and especially Smokey Robinson, who is identified with five of the eleven songs here.
Claire Daly is a welcome addition to the very small coterie of baritone saxophone specialists. While she doubles occasionally on flute, it is with the big horn that she has made a name for herself.
Despite the inherent limitations in this kind of thematic framework, Daly manages to add enough variety and spice to turn this into a satisfying album for jazz fans while presumably reaching out to an audience that can relate to this genre and recognize the tunes.
"Loving You is Sweeter Than Ever" offers a taste of what Daly can do. It is a medium up tempo and she is soaringexpressing the pure emotion of the song.
"I Second That Emotion" has a kind of Carribean feel to it. as she puts her Sonny Rollins
suit on. Guitarist Jerome Harris, a long time Sonny Rollins associate, shines here with a thoughtful well paced solo. Mary Ann McSweeney
displays a warm sound on bass, although she appears a little cramped in by the melody.
"The One Who Really Loves You" is as much a tribute to Herbie Mann as to composer Robinson, as Daly switches to flute and seems content to mostly explore the middle register. Harris, in contrast, interjects a nice bluesy solo. "I Want You Back" is again reminiscent of Rollins with a stop time intro that breaks into a straight ahead groove. This is a real opportunity for Daly to show off her ability to develop a well thought out improvisation and she is up to the challenge. It is her most engaging solo on the date.
Daly gives "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" a tender treatment with phrasing almost like a vocalist -you can almost hear the words. There are a lot of r&b cliches in the tune, but Harris' solo, clinging as it does quite close to the melody, has a lot of feeling.
"Cloud Nine" is edgy with a funky head with a strong back beat and a straight ahead bridge. Another good stop time that gives way to a passionate solo joyfully exploring the lower register of the horn.
Nice a capella piano intro on "I'll Be There" before the song springs into a medium Latin beat. I like the laid back feeling of her solo -melodic and flowing, but with subdued passion. It is followed by a pleasant, but overly safe piano solo. Harris' solo here is fresh and thoughtful. You can tell he has all the chops he needs, but keeps them under control. His statement begins modestly, but builds in intensity without undermining the quiet mood of the tune.
Daly returns to the flute on "Hunter Gets Captured by The Game." It's a pretty rendition and is somewhat reminiscent of Ian Anderson without the humming and the switch in instruments offers a nice contrast to the baritone.
"What Becomes of the Brokenhearted" starts off with a heartfelt guitar intro and then a gentle reading by the leader, showing off what a pretty tone she has. This is ballad playing at its best -good enough to satisfy the most impenetrable jazz snob.
The album finishes with "Ain't That Peculiar" a blues in 3/4 with some guitar sound effects in the background as Daly let's loose with some of her most ambitious playing of the session. The rhythm section follows, with brief, but nice, interplay with the piano and drums rising and falling together against a repetitive bass line laid down by McSweeney. The song and album ends in a fitting crescendo.
This is Daly's tenth solo album and one that was inspired by the label owner's love of Motown and Daly's similar affection.
Despite my reservations about the material, this is a well thought out album with a group of genuinely empathetic players. It is obvious that it wasn't the case of throwing a bunch of musicians in the studio and playing a couple of hasty arranged heads.
Daly deserves to be ranked among the top baritone saxophonists playing today. She does not fall into the familiar school of Nick Brignola
, Ronnie Cuber
and Pepper Adams
. Instead, she seems to prefer the smoother and gentler personality of the horn -more in line with people like Gerry Mulligan
and Cecil Payne
. Her articulation is more legato and like Lester Young and others in his school refrains from pushing the beat. Hers is a more subtle and quiet approach.
This album is a good one to introduce your R&B friends to jazz, while satisfying to the discriminating jazz listener as well. Although I would prefer to hear Daly play more jazz oriented tunes, I have no hesitation in recommending this album.