Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Daniels’ clarinet sound is exemplary, as everyone knows: throaty but not too throaty down low and mellow but not too mellow up top .… His execution [is almost] flawless no matter how resourcefully his imagination roams, or how swift the tempo. He woos the ear rather than wrestled it, daring, in this post-Coltrane world, to please…and even to elaborate on (get ready) the melody.”
- Tony Gieske
“Eddie Daniels is truly a phenomenon. Musically, he is matchless in his proficiency, accuracy, technique, and purity of style in both jazz and classical arenas. On an artistic level, his drive to be the best has earned him a position unequaled by any of his contemporaries. On a personal level, it is frequently evident that he is intent on this purpose.
His often gentle, resonant, speaking voice sometimes hides this constant, under-the-surface intensity, but conversation with Eddie soon reveals his passion and enthusiasm for life-love: his music performance. His enthusiasm for his mission seems unlimited.
A certain sense of humor belies his seriousness about his chosen path and reveals a tinge of mischievousness which characterizes his demeanor and displays itself in his playing.”
- Kim Richmond
“Eddie Daniels is a rare example of a post-bop musician specializing on clarinet.”
- Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, 6th Ed.
Sometimes I write from recollection.
As the years go by this can be a dangerous source, therefore, the following story may be fact or it may be fiction.
In either case, it’s a great story and if it isn’t true, then I’m happy to be writing it into fiction.
Although his principal instrument is the clarinet, when Eddie Daniels first joined the Thad Jones – Mel Lewis Orchestra, he did so as a member of its saxophone section.
Unlike the Glenn Miller, Swing Era days, there was little call for clarinets in modern big band arrangements except to add a bit of “color” here and there.
So Eddie went on Thad and Mel’s band as a tenor saxophonist
One night when Eddie’s solo turn came up on Thad’s Little Pixie following those of saxophonists Joe Farrell, Jerry Dodgion and Jerome Richardson, instead of taking it on tenor saxophone, for whatever reason, he decided to take the solo on clarinet.
Eddie’s clarinet solo knocked everybody out, so much so that he was urged to take more and more solos on the instrument [this despite the fact that Thad Jones was no fan of the clarinet as a solo instrument].
After leaving Thad and Mel’s orchestra and gigging around New York for a few years, Eddie was eventually able to reunite was his first “love” and launch a “new” career as a Jazz clarinetist in the 1980s when he became a
GRP recording artist.
Eddie Daniels is in good company as a number of brilliant Jazz saxophonists, notably, Lester Young, Art Pepper and Phil Woods [who majored in clarinet at Julliard], have also performed on the instrument.
But Eddie took it the other way and I’m sure glad he did.
To put it in somewhat dated bop-speak: Eddie is a gas on the axe.
And, as a result of playing it more, he just got better and better and better.
Clarinet is a wickedly difficult instrument to play, let alone to play well. Squeaks and squawks abound as does bad intonation and reedy tones.
Impoverished, improvisatory ideas make some clarinetists sound as though they are in a death struggle with the instrument and are trying to strangle it.
But in Eddie Daniels’ hands, I am reminded once again of how magnificent the instrument could sound when played by masters like Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Buddy DeFranco.
Oddly enough, Eddie and I have a common starting point in Jazz – Benny Goodman.
“Benny Goodman was my first idol,” Eddie said to Leonard Feather in the insert notes to Daniels’
GRP CD with Gary entitled Benny Rides Again [GRD-9665]. Burton
“Most people who know my music might not think that, but between the ages of 13 and 15, I was inspired by him. He really blew me away! I had all his records. Later, I moved the away from Benny a bit and got into Bird [Charlie Parker], [John] Coltrane and [Sonny] Rollins.
A similar sequence of events happened in my life, although, in my case, it was drummer Gene Krupa with Benny Goodman’s band serving as an early inspiration and not Benny, himself.
Here’s a little more background on Eddie’s career as written by Leonard Feather in the Benny Rides Again insert notes:
“Few musicians can claim to have scaled the heights twice, on two different instruments, in the course of a single career. Eddie Daniels has that remarkable and possibly unique distinction.
In 1966 he took part in an international jazz competition held in
, and won first prize — as a tenor saxophonist. Today, of course, he has numerous awards to his credit as a clarinetist and has virtually given up the sax. Vienna
Throughout most of his career, until 1986 (the year his Breakthrough album was released on
GRP), Daniels had divided his time between the two horns. He studied alto and then clarinet as a pre-teenager. He earned clarinet credits while at the High School for The Performing Arts in New York, and in 1957, just before his sixteenth birthday, he played alto sax with Marshall Brown's Newport Youth Band.
He earned an MA in 1966 after studying clarinet at Julliard, and in that year he became one of the pillars of the sax section in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis orchestra, playing tenor. 'Thad really didn't want me to play clarinet,’ he recalls, ‘but on one record I did manage to get a short solo — and that one opportunity was enough to earn me a “Talent Deserving Wider Recognition” listing in the clarinet category of the Downbeat poll.’
Daniels was never satisfied to be pigeonholed in one area. He studied classical flute for ten years. His mentors included Julius Baker, Harold Bennett and Thomas Nyfenger. He even took up trombone and played it on a record with La Playa Sextet.
After leaving Jones/Lewis in 1973, he took up a variety of jobs in and around
, but the decision to concentrate on clarinet became a turning point that enabled him to acquire a new and distinct image.” New York
And here are some excerpts from an interview with Eddie which was conducted by Kim Richmond, the wonderful saxophonist based in
, and published in the May/June 1995 edition of The Saxophone Journal. You can locate more about Kim by visiting www.kimrichmond.com and back issue order information to obtain a copy of the full article at www.dornpub.com. Los Angeles, CA
“Eddie Daniels is truly a phenomenon. Musically, he is matchless in his proficiency, accuracy, technique, and purity of style in both jazz and classical arenas. On an artistic level, his drive to be the best has earned him a position unequaled by
any of his contemporaries. On a personal level, it is frequently evident that he is intent on this purpose. His often gentle, resonant, speaking voice sometimes hides this constant, under-the-surface intensity, but conversation with Eddie soon reveals his passion and enthusiasm for life-love: his music performance. His enthusiasm
for his mission seems unlimited. A certain sense of humor belies his seriousness about his chosen path and reveals a tinge of mischievousness which characterizes his demeanor and displays itself in his playing. Several years ago he made the decision that the clarinet would be his exclusive instrument. During the next few years, he established himself as the jazz clarinetist on the scene, as well as a high contender in the classical field. In the last two years, he has resumed performing on tenor saxophone as well, much to the delight of his many saxophone fans.” …
What was behind your decision to go, several years back, with the clarinet exclusively?
Well, the clarinet is a great challenge as an instrument, an unlimited challenge;
it just doesn’t yield. I tend to be a stickler for punishment. I like punishment. The saxophone yields easier, not that it’s an easy instrument, because it’s not easy to play musically, but I felt that maybe I could do something unique and play the clarinet in a way that would make people more inspired to want to play the instrument.
It seems to me that you bring so much more to the jazz clarinet because of your
That was the way I was taught to do it. I can’t let myself play any instrument
until I can really master the sound of that instrument. I look at the jazz sound as coming out of the classical sound, as really being controlled, beautiful, manipulative, and colorful. Most people approach the clarinet from just the jazz sound; they make
one kind of color. It’s a kind of “woofy” sound. I have, however, recently returned to performing the saxophone. It was at the request of friends. Also, I want to expand my audience a little more.
I know of people who wouldn’t listen to you because they were not fans of the clarinet, perhaps because of other jazz clarinet players they had heard and didn’t
That’s right. Also, I felt that because I had become a clarinet player I was kind out of the “fold.” To the young jazz student in school, the clarinet is still a strange instrument; the saxophone isn’t. The saxophone is so much a part of my bloodstream that it unites me with young people a little bit more directly; then I can introduce the clarinet to them. Saxophone players didn’t relate to me that much. Now that I’m back to playing tenor again, we speak the same language. I’m playing their instrument. I’m loving the tenor. I feel like I have a special affinity for that instrument and I’m having a great time playing it. Now I can go to colleges and talk to kids who play the saxophone. I’m a saxophone player; they identify with me. I can transmit something of what I feel about good saxophone sound because the saxophone has gone in a certain direction lately that I’m not so pleased with.
What is that?
I love Michael Brecker’s playing, but every student has tried to become a Michael Brecker clone. He’s an amazingly great player, but he’s not the only direction. They have kind of gone away from what the tenor really was meant to sound like. Not that I’m really the one to make it sound that way, but there was Ben Webster, Getz, and Coltrane. You know, there’s a whole gamut of other sounds and this whole, funky, fusion, tenor sound that they’re all going towards is great for Brecker, but not great for everybody. ….
“Eddie Daniels is unquestionably included among the very best musicians on the scene today. He is an excellent example of the results of talent, hard work and drive.
Herb Mickman [bassist and Eddie’s close musical companion from their formative years] has a multitude of anecdotes about Eddie dating back to those early days.
He sums it up best when he says: ‘Eddie’s goal in life is to be better than himself!’”
I’m glad that Eddie brought the clarinet back into Jazz.
Maybe you will also feel that way after listening to him play I Fall in Love Too Easily n the following tribute video.