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Three Masters of Clarinet: Evan Christopher, Eddie Daniels & Joe Muranyi

Ken Dryden By

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Evan Christopher
Django a la Creole
Fremeaux & Associates
2009


Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway
A Duet of One
IPO
2009


Lew Green & Joe Muranyi
Together
Arbors
2009


There are relatively few musicians who make a living exclusively on clarinet. Evan Christopher has always focused on clarinet. Eddie Daniels began his career as a tenor saxophonist, though he eventually chose to concentrate on clarinet. Joe Muranyi is a clarinetist first, though he also plays soprano sax.

Evan Christopher's Django à la Créole project is a bit different from the clarinetist's earlier recordings, as it utilizes his Django Reinhardt tribute band with guitarists Dave Blenkhorn and Dave Kelbie, plus bassist Sebastien Girardot. Reinhardt recorded with New Orleans stylists like Barney Bigard and later used clarinetist Hubert Rostaing as a soloist once Stephane Grappelli departed, so the blend of clarinet with Reinhardt's music isn't at all a stretch.

Christopher's sound is warm, lyrical and with a gorgeous tone, though his vibrato is a bit more reserved than on some of his earlier recordings, as he did not need to project to be heard over piano, brass or other reed instruments. 7 of the 11 pieces are by Reinhardt, highlighted by a colorful take of "Nuages" that incorporates a Latin rhythm and suggests a train approaching in the improvised introduction (Reinhardt was said to have named the piece, French for clouds, when seeing the smoke from a train engine) and the playful medley of "Tears" and "Djangology." Also not to be missed is the hard-charging setting of "I Know That You Know."

When Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway joined forces for A Duet of One, performances at The Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, they chose to eschew rehearsals in favor of picking tunes on the spot. Beginning with "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," Daniels is buoyant and lyrical, with Kellaway's inventive lines never repeating themselves, even detouring into a bit of stride and brief Tatum-like runs. The subdued tone of Hoagy Carmichael's "New Orleans" suggests reflection upon a long ago love affair while the duo sets up the old chestnut "After You've Gone" by engaging in some free-flowing improvising before gradually working into its well-known theme.

Each contributed originals. Kellaway's "This is the Time" is simultaneously humorous and ominous, with an intricate theme that proves immediately catchy. The pianist's dreamy "Love of My Life" shimmers as the audience quietly savors its every note. Daniels' lush "Slow Dance" almost whispers with a soft bossa nova rhythm that is often barely implied while his "We'll Always Be Together" is a cheerful ballad that ends the date on a strong note.

Cornetist Lew Green and clarinetist Joe Muranyi have worked together in several different larger Dixieland bands but Together is their first small group record date. It is dominated by traditional jazz favorites, though they all sound fresh with fluid ensembles and enthusiastic yet brief solos. Their sparkling take of "Four or Five Times" benefits from a more leisurely tempo than usual, while the superb interplay between the co-leaders is a highlight of "I Believe in Miracles," which adds a friendly vocal by pianist Jeff Barnhart.

Muranyi contributed two originals, the melancholy but strutting "Storyville Swing" and the sauntering "Green Lake Blues," the latter featuring Vince Giordano's bass sax and the leader's vocal-like New Orleans clarinet. It's hard to not think of Louis Armstrong and Jack Teagarden when "Rockin' Chair" is mentioned; in this version, Muranyi's clarinet substitutes for Teagarden's lead vocal with Green answering on muted cornet. Then Muranyi switches to singing with guitarist Bob Leary improvising vocal asides in the style of Armstrong for a chorus, before they exchange roles. Traditional jazz is very much alive throughout this rewarding record date.


Tracks and Personnel

Django a la Creole

Tracks: Douce Ambience; Farewell Blues; Dinette; I Know That You Know; Manoir de Mes Rêves; Low Cotton; Nuages; Melodie au Crépescule; Insensiblement; Tears/Djangology.

Personnel: Evan Christopher: clarinet; Dave Blaenkhorn: guitar; Dave Kelbie: guitar; Sebastien Girardot: bass.

A Duet of One

Tracks: I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; Slow Dance; Adagio Swing; I Want to Be Happy; New Orleans; This is the Time; After You've Gone; Blue Waltz; Love of My Life; We'll Always Be Together.

Personnel: Eddie Daniels: clarinet; Roger Kellaway: piano.

Together

Tracks: Oriental Man; Take Me To the Land of Jazz; Together; Four or Five Times; Piggly Wiggly; I Left My Sugar Standing in The Rain; Mississippi Rag; I Believe In Miracles; Storyville Swing; Rockin´ Chair; I Know That You Know; Green Lake Blues; San.

Personnel: Lew Green: cornet; Joe Muranyi: clarinet, vocal (6, 10); Jeff Barnhart: piano, celeste (8), vocal (8); Bob Leary: banjo, guitar. vocal (10); Vince Giordano: tuba, bass, bass saxophone, vocal (20); Danny Coots: drums.


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