Following up on Swing Low,
her first album as a leader, Claire Daly's Movin' On
involves more than merely creating a second addition to her now-doubled discography as a leader. It allows her to project her recent family losses through a sun-lit magnifying glass to create a concentrated thematic burn. However, consistent with her personality, the CD doesn't express the personal grief over the loss of her mother and nephew. Rather, it expands the perspective to the need for continuation in spite of life's obstacles. So, a person's wonder about the sense of separation mentioned in the titles of the songs on Movin' On
would be perceptive indeed. For that's the point.
The words she sings--"smile though your heart is aching, even though it's breaking, when there are clouds in the sky you'll get by"--form the framework for the entire CD. For if the listener were unaware of her loss and ignored the moving-on thread of the titles, the explicit humor and enlivening spirit of Daly's playing would make one think of other themes.... like optimism and gladness. As a result, Movin' On,
while addressing Daly's feelings of loss, more importantly emphasizes the rejuvenating omnipresence of life.
It's interesting that Daly's influences don't explicitly include the usual baritone sax suspects like Gerry Mulligan or Cecil Payne. Rather, she venerates the less-well-known players like Ronnie Cuber or Serge Chaloff, whose lower tones mine the instrument's unique sound. Like those influences, Daly improvises much of the time in the rich, lower register of the horn, particularly on a tune like "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," which possesses a bluesy languor that lends itself to her interpretation. In fact, it seems that the key for the tune was chosen deliberately to allow Daly to play successive choruses in the middle and then lower ranges.
Without subtlety, Daly injects unmistakable humor into her group's arrangements of "Bye-Ya" and "Love Me Or Leave Me," appropriately adjacent to each other in the track sequence. For on "Bye-Ya," Daly sparely but assertively plays the descending two notes from the bass clef of Monk's tune as first Eli Yamin and then Peter Grant fill in the response. "Love Me Or Leave Me" begins with Daly playing the outlines of the tune in clipped, circular-patterned every-other-beat quarter notes, actually recalling the vaudeville beginnings of the baritone saxophone before practitioners like Jack Washington and Harry Carney raised the profile of the instrument to new levels of respectability. Daly's fearlessness in risking instrumental caricaturization in her pursuit of evoking a smile differentiates her approach from many of the oh-so-serious baritone saxophonists.
Unfortunately, while Daly must have felt the need to break into singing on "Smile" and "Some Other Time," the ordinariness of her vocal interpretation and her off-pitch transition notes connecting the long tones make one wonder why her free-spirited style on the saxophone doesn't transfer to voice. Soon enough, Daly takes up the horn after she sings first choruses, and one appreciates again her facility in covering the entire range of the sax and her ever-freshening ideas during successive choruses.
Backed by trumpeter James Zollar on two tracks, Daly engages the listener with her submersion into harmonic lines, particularly on Tommy Turrentine's "You Said It," reminiscent of her outstanding work in rooting Diva's saxophone section during the band's golden era that consisted of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew, trombonist Lee Hill Kavanaugh and bassist Mary Ann McSweeney. Reportedly, Stanley Turrentine planned to participate in recording Movin' On,
but instead is memorialized by it. If he had, that
would have been saxophone match-up creating some fascinating sparks. Daly's style, her own and yet respectful of the instrument's tradition, is ever fresh, new ideas occurring to her in mid-chorus, rather than belaboring a tune with repetitive statements. Certainly, it would have been interesting to hear the instantly identifiable sound of Stanley Turrentine combined with Daley's developing personalized approach.