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Claire Daly: Heaven Help Us All

Ken Franckling By

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An artist's mood as he or she goes into the studio can shape the music in ways usually not shared with listeners. Rarely do we get to know what's going on in the mind or heart. But Daly lays it all out there on her newest recording with her quartet Solar and guests Warren Smith, Kirpal Gordon and Napoleon Maddox.

The baritone saxophonist has been giving considerable thought this new millennium to the roles of good and evil, heaven and hell and, as she explains in her brief liner acknowledgments, "what we could all have done to deserve times this interesting."

Daly and her bandmates explore material that relates to or was inspired by these "interesting" political and social times, including two versions of Stevie Wonder's title track, Coltrane's "Dear Lord" and even two American standards—"Ol' Devil Moon" and "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," from Burton Lane and Harold Arlen, respectively. Poetry comes into the mix with spoken word performances by Kirpal Gordon, who added clever and timely lyrics—"What We Got Against Tyranny" for Rahsaan Roland Kirk's "Theme for the Eulipions" and "Don't Dismiss the Bliss" to "Evil Ways" by Willie Bobo. Bassist Adam Bernstein contributes an original called "The Small But Evil Man" (guess who?) and her veteran pianist, Eli Yamin, adds "Jacquet's Meditation" in memory of the recently departed sax great.

This studio project offers both superb playing and a wake-up call. Daly's clean and confident baritone gets brawny at times. Her soloing and vocals on tracks 4 and 11 are surrounded by the warmth and comfort of her supportive and creative band. Smith's bright vibes are an interesting contrast to the leader's dark horn. "Dear Lord" is a perfect opener with a buoyant sound that raises hope that there will be better days ahead.

Track Listing: Dear Lord; Between The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea; Heaven Help Us All; Heavenly; Ol' Devil Moon; Theme for the Eulipions/What We Got Against Tyranny; Jacquet's Meditation; The Small But Evil Man; Evil Ways/Don't Dismiss The Bliss; My Blue Heaven; Heaven Help Us All (reprise).

Personnel: Claire Daly: baritone saxophone, vocals (4, 11); Eli Yamin: piano; Andy Bernstein: bass; Andy Demos: drums; Warren Smith: vibes, percussion; Kirpal Gordon: spoken word (6, 9); Napoleon Maddox: human beat box (4, 6, 11).

Title: Heaven Help Us All | Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Daly Bread

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