Eddie Daniels is widely regarded as one of the great clarinetists of all time and is especially known for his virtuosity in both jazz and classical idioms, putting him in the rare company of other "bilingual" jazz greats such as Wynton Marsalis and Keith Jarrett. If you have typecast the clarinet with the big-band era sounds of Bennie Goodman, Artie Shaw and Woody Herman et al., Daniels will break the mold for you as he plays it more like any top-tier bebop tenor sax player (and in fact he is a supreme tenor player too, having come to jazz prominence playing tenor with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra).
Roger Kellaway is evenly matched with Daniels as a herculean musician, moving fluently between jazz piano player; composer for films and television across jazz, classical and popular music forms; and musical director for A-List talent including Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and Van Morrison. He has recorded on more than 250 albums and gained some popular notariety as the composer and pianist on the closing theme to the famous 1970s sitcom, "All in the Family" called "Remembering You".
The music on Live at the Library of Congress is eclectic but its style doesn't wander far from straight ahead bebop roots. From the world of stage musicals we have the Gershwin brother's "Strike Up the Band" from the 1927 musical of the same name; the beautiful Stephen Sondheim ballad "Somewhere" from West Side Story; and another Sondheim tune, "Pretty Woman" from the musical Sweeney Todd, on which Daniels opens with a variation he calls "Etude of a Woman" based on the first three notes of the Sondheim tune. There is the Thelonius Monk classic bop tune "Ryhthm-a-ning" and another oft-recorded jazz standard, "Just Friends" by Klenner and Lewis. There are three Kellaway originals and finally, "America the Beautiful" on which Kellaway does a marvelous shift into a kind of gutsy blues feel during his solo before coming back to the more traditional harmony of the tune.
Daniels and Kellaway swing and soar, whisper and dance across all of these tunes with the freedom of shared jazz sensibilities and deep roots. They demonstrate their virtuosity but without any hint of arrogance, as they both proved long ago their place among legendary jazz musicians. Daniels slices through blisteringly fast runs like butter as easily as he coaxes out a ballad melody with buttery smoothness. Kellaway brilliantly covers the piano landscape, from gentle comping behind Daniels to sweeping and swinging solos, from rapid bebop lines to rich, complex chord statements. You get the feeling Kellaway can play anything – ragtime, stride, bebop, dinner jazz, blues, swing and pop tunes, not to mention any technically demanding classical piano piece.
Highlights include Daniel's breathy melody and delicacy on "Somewhere;" the whimsical interchange between Daniels and Kellaway on "Rhythm-a-ning" along with their solo improvisations; the sparkling, free opening to "Just Friends;" and the winsomely pretty Kellaway original "A Place that You Want to Call Home."