Clarinetist Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway
are more than just friends; they're musical soulmates, connected in pulse and impulse, focused on the same syncretic sum of sounds and styles, and bound by a telepathic rapport. Both men are virtuosos of the highest order, but that's beside the point. The real measure of their artistic collaborations is tied to the way they communicate and connect, not how fast they can go or how many notes each can cram into a bar. They have that special something that can't be defined, evident when they've worked in a controlled studio environment, as on Daniels' Memos From Paradise
(GRP, 1988), and when they've take to the stage for intimate encounters captured for a number of post-millennial offeringsA Duet Of One
(IPO Recordings, 2008), Live At The Library Of Congress
(IPO Recordings, 2011), and Duke At The Roadhouse: Live In Santa Fe
(IPO Recordings, 2012). Now, with this document coming to light, another chapter is added to their recorded history. Just Friends
takes us back to the Village Vanguard in November of 1988, where George Klabin had the good sense to record this band (with permission). He used only a single Sony stereo microphone, but the music doesn't suffer much for it. The recording was simply for Klabin to have and to hold, never meant for release, but a trip down memory lane altered its fate. Klabin pulled out the tape to give it a listen in 2016, revisiting what he heard on that night long ago, and he sent copies of the recording to Daniels and Kellaway. All three parties were equally enthusiastic about the music, so plans were set in motion to make the tape into a proper album package.
At the time that this show took place, it had been more than ten months since Daniels and Kellaway recorded Memos From Paradise
. But it really sounds like absolutely no time had passed since they were in each others' musical company. They're incredibly tight from the opener through the closerin sync on the bluesy head of Kellaway's Monk-inspired "Some O' This And Some O' That" and during the firestorm runs on "The Spice Man"and everything in between feels just as good. With bassist Buster Williams
and drummer Al Foster
rounding out the group, that high degree of synchronicity should come as no shock.
Those four move from the aforementioned blues-based beginnings into a more reflective climate with Daniels' "Reverie For A Rainy Day," a bewitching and mildly soulful number that the clarinet kingpin penned specifically for this Vanguard run. Then they drop in on "Wolfie's Samba," a tune that borrows melody from the second movement of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet and shifts from a classical atmosphere to its titular Brazilian rhythmic landscape; visit "Just Friends" for a lengthy and penetrating look at that durable classic, adorned with ornamental wonders, set into being through melodious fantasias, and swinging with charm and grace; and come to close with "The Spice Man," a Kellaway original with compelling solo interludes (usually) framed by fiery runs.
In addition to filling a gap in the Daniels/Kellaway discography by adding a quartet-based club set to the studio and duo-centered live dates already commercially available, this one simply has great value for what it presents: four musicians playing with skill and passion for an appreciative audience.