If improvisational jazz is something that piques your interest, you might want to take a look at A Duet Of One, a new album now out on the IPO Recordings label. It’s a deceptively simple pairing of clarinetist Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway, recorded live at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, but the music itself is anything but simple. Instead, it’s a collection that serves notice that the two instrumentalists are among the best around.
I reviewed an album by Daniels in 2007 and one by Kellaway in 2008, but a combination of the two virtuosos is something new for me. Using only basic charts as a framework to support their stunning improvisational efforts, they have created a listening experience that’s as close as possible to being there. I found it to be a very intriguing sound and came away with added appreciation for the skills of the artists.
The collection of ten tracks includes both standards and newer pieces written by the duo themselves, but it hardly matters because the level of improvisation makes even familiar pieces new and different. Whether it’s a delightful and playful take on an old song such as “After You’ve Gone,” or Daniels’ own gorgeous and lyrical “Blue Waltz,” the two musicians keep the listener guessing.
Even the opening track, “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” a tune better known as Tommy Dorsey’s theme, is completely transformed. Instead of a lush big-band sound driven by a mellow trombone, we get the simple intimacy of a clarinet and piano playing off each other. Good stuff.
Every track on the album has something to recommend it, but my favorite was probably “Adagio Swing,” Daniels’ reinvented version of an operatic piece by Italian Baroque composer Tomaso Albinoni. It’s a good bet you won’t find that on every jazz album.
Daniels and Kellaway have generated something special with A Duet Of One, and should be applauded for not only continuing to grow as musicians, but for proving that the music of today’s jazz stars can still surprise.