Working jazz musicians have long been accustomed to the necessity of playing just about anything, in any setting, and Claire Daly is no exception. The intrepid baritone saxophonist has recorded tributes to Thelonious Monk and Rahsaan Roland Kirk and, in 2016, she even offered a distinctive take on Motown classics with 2468 West Grand Boulevard (Glass Beach Jazz). With the enviable versatility on her formidable horn which has brought her consistent acclaim, she now turns to more conventional jazz fare, uniting with tenor saxophonist George Garzone, a mentor and collaborator who brings his lighter touch to a wide-ranging, enjoyable set of standards and show tunes.
Daly's episodic work with Garzone goes back at least to 1998, when she appeared on his Moodiology (NYC Records), an album characteristic of Garzone's assertive style. Here he is much more subduedindeed, the "VuVu" in this record's title is a neologism from Garzone which indicates his willingness to focus his contributions in a melodic, understated manner. Daly too stays largely within a restrained, lyrical temperament, suitable for a repertoire which ranges from Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" to Rodgers and Hart's "I'll Take Manhattan." Ironically, the one cut in which the two saxophonists turn it loose is the Rodgers & Hammerstein number "Lonely Goatherd," one of two tunes from that songwriting team (the other being "People Will Say We're in Love"). On "Goatherd," Daly's arrangement uses an odd-meter framework to unleash some ferocious playing from both saxophonists, particularly during their mutual improvisation toward the close of the track. In other respects, the two play it straight, hewing closely to the tunes of the classic repertoire.
The rest of the band includes pianist Jon Davis, bassist Dave Hofstra, and drummer David F. Gibson. They provide all the support needed to let Garzone and Daly do their thing and with the delicate touch required on pieces such as Duke Ellington's "Warm Valley," rendered gorgeously before transitioning into the briskly paced "What Am I Here For?" There are a few surprises here, including a brief vocal turn from Daly on Steve Kuhn's "Hold Out Your Hand," and Davis switching to keyboards for a vigorous treatment of Kuhn's modal "Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers." For the most part the quintet refrains from taking too many chances, preferring to let the melodies shine lambently. And there is nothing to fault them for in that regard; when Daly and Garzone generate their tender dialogue on "Fools Rush In," it is easy to appreciate the genuine reverence the two veterans bring to this material.
All the Way; Sweet Georgia Bright; Fools Rush In; People Will Say We’re in Love; The Lonely Goatherd;
Warm Valley/What Am I Here For?; Hold Out Your Hand; Half Nelson; Harlem Nocturne; The Very
Thought of You;
The Saga of Harrison Crabfeathers; Manhattan.
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