For a powerful adrenaline rush, it's hard to beat a full house (sixteen or seventeen single-minded musicians wailing in unison and swinging like there's no tomorrow), although there's a lot to be said for a pair of aces, too. That's the hand that's dealt on Duke at the Roadhouse: Live in Santa Fe
, the aces in question being clarinetist / tenor saxophonist Eddie Daniels
and pianist Roger Kellaway
(with cellist James Holland raising the ante as a wild card on four numbers).
As the title denotes, this is music for the most part associated with Duke Ellington
, amplified by one original apiece by Daniels ("Duke at the Roadhouse") and Kellaway ("Duke in Ojai"). Ellington wrote (or co-wrote) seven numbers, the odd song out being Juan Tizol
's "Perdido." Daniels penned "Roadhouse" to honor a time in 1966 when, as a new member of the Thad Jones
/ Mel Lewis
Orchestra, he was invited to play in a jam session with Ellington at a nightclub in Greenwich Village, an experience he has never forgotten. While Kellaway doesn't say what led him to write "Duke in Ojai," there must be a story there too.
Daniels, who has become almost a full-time clarinetist since his tenure with the Jones / Lewis Orchestra, shows on "In a Mellow Tone" and "Sophisticated Lady" that he can still wield a mean tenor sax. He has "Lady" to himself (with Kellaway comping trimly), and his unaccompanied intro, lasting a minute and a half, is a gem among gems. Also worth noting is how easily Kellaway, who can swing with the best of them, slips into Ellington's more high-toned dinner jacket to produce subtle motifs that blend erudition with elegance. The duo cut loose only on the closing theme, "It Don't Mean a Thing," and even here the customary exuberance is held somewhat in check, perhaps in deference to the session's sobriety quotient.
In every respect, the temper is unmistakably Ellingtonian, from "I'm Beginning to See the Light" through "Creole Love Call," "Perdido," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Mood Indigo," Daniels' tenor showpieces and the two originals. The addition of a cello, suggested by Daniels, was enthusiastically endorsed by Kellaway, who wrote Holland's solos (he takes a couple) in advance. The album was (superbly) recorded in October 2012 at Santa Fe's Lensic Theatre as a benefit for the city's Center for Therapeutic Riding, which uses horses to help young people with disabilities recuperate. Whatever the cause, Daniels and Kellaway have dealt themselves a winning hand, one that is well worth betting on.
I’m Beginning to See the Light; Creole Love Call; Perdido; Duke at the
Roadhouse; In a Mellow Tone; In a Sentimental Mood; Sophisticated Lady;
Duke in Ojai; Mood Indigo; It Don’t Mean a Thing.
Eddie Daniels: clarinet, tenor saxophone; Roger Kellaway: piano; James