Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway Receive The Grand Prix de l'Académie du Jazz

IPO Recordings is pleased to announce that Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway's recording "Duke at the Roadhouse Live in Santa Fe" (IPO IPOC1024) has been awarded the Grand Prix de l'Académie du Jazz . The award recognizes the best record of the year in France.
About Duke at the Roadhouse
A pair of undisputable Jazz masters taking on a slice of Duke Ellington's unparalleled repertoire for artistic interpretation is in itself a formula for greatness.But when those masters are men like clarinetist/tenor saxophonist Eddie Daniels and pianist Roger Kellaway, that's simply not enough of a challenge. So for their third IPO duet recording Duke at the Roadhouse: Live in Santa Fe, these two brilliant collaborators have selected five of Duke' most popular compositions (and two more heavily associated with him) as a springboard for unique exploration. And what better way to pay tribute to a man like Ellington.

Simply concentrating orchestral works into a duo format is a most formidable challenge. And adding a third voice to the proceedings in the outstanding cellist James Holland on four pieces is a stroke of genius that adds as wholly different orchestral timbre. But apart from that, serious thought and focus has gone into each selection, providing an angle of perspective to the Ellington canon that is truly arresting.

Anyone familiar with the histories of these two artists would not be surprised. Coming to age during the incredibly fertile period of the 1960s, both men matured in that era's environment of unlimited exploration, best expressed with a foundation of solid roots in the tradition. On this wonderful recording, a broad palette of Jazz expression is on full display, but never losing sight of the central mantra of Duke Ellington's imperative – It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing!

The album was recorded live at a benefit concert in New Mexico for a group called "Santa Fe Center for Therapeutic Riding" which utilizes horses to help young people with disabilities. Performing in the beautiful Lensic Theater, the visceral audience response that can be heard after (and sometimes during) each track clearly demonstrates how the music created the spontaneous and intimate aura of a club.

Daniels focuses primarily on the clarinet, an appropriate choice; not only considering the importance of that voice in Duke's music and the long history of amazing clarinetists - like Barney Bigard, Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope and so many others - but also because Eddie has his own reputation of being one of Jazz' greatest clarinetists. Kellaway is one of the extremely rare pianists – along with the late Jaki Byard – who can demonstrate the entire history of Jazz piano within any four bars, moving from barrelhouse and stride elements into explosive Cecil Taylor-like chord clusters in an eye blink, without ever departing from the essence of the musical context. The sheer virtuosity on this recording is astonishing, but in the greatest tradition of Jazz, only there to serve the music, not the ego.

From the opening track, I'm Beginning To See The Light, a breathtaking tour de force that embraces so many elements of Jazz expression – abstraction, sheer swing, juxtaposition of unison and counterpoint, complexity, spontaneity, trading 4s, 8s and choruses – the jubilation is in full display. This is followed by a total contrast in one of Duke's oldest classics, Creole Love Call. Dulcet clarinet over a bluesy barrelhouse is interspersed with a free-time airiness in this splendid offering.

The addition of cellist James Holland on four tracks exponentially alters the atmosphere, essentially cubing the energy not just adding another voice. All of his parts are written by Kellaway (Roger has been highly acclaimed for his earlier Cello Quartets), but Holland's feel for Jazz is fully apparent and most essential for the music. With his presence, Perdido – a piece that is too often tossed off playfully – is treated with a stunning arrangement that is highly dramatic, with an episodic chamber-like exposition. One of Duke's most beautiful pieces In A Sentimental Mood becomes a chamber suite, launched by a tension-building rolling rhythm stoked by Latin-grooved ostinato piano and transforming through a vast array of palpable textures and moods. Another early Ellington gem, Mood Indigo receives a daring and unusual treatment, an intricately and lovingly structured blend of clarinet, cello and piano that glides around the theme in bits and pieces, only stating it fully in the closing moments of this highly evocative rendition.

In a Mellow Tone finds Daniels equally formidable on tenor, soulfully stating the theme alongside the plaintive cello. Unaccompanied tenor and piano solos sometimes fragment the time into delightful abstractions, but never losing Duke's "mellow" intent. Eddie's tenor also highlights another beautiful ballad, Sophisticated Lady, opening with a solo excursion that teases the beautiful melody before Roger joins in for an extremely soulful portrait of Duke's elegant Lady, which deftly shifts back and forth between deep blues and evocative balladry.

Daniels and Kellaway each contributed one original apiece dedicated to Duke. Eddie's Duke at the Roadhouse is a swirling unison theme featuring outstanding back-to-back solos in straightforward fashion. Roger's Duke in Ojai's descending pattern initially calls to mind Coltrane's Giant Steps and is an ideal vehicle for superb interplay by the two longtime collaborators who truly enjoy playing music together.

This exceptional album closes with a fascinating rendition of It Don't Mean a Thing. Highly impressionistic, with an almost Baroque approach it settles into a deeply hewn groove that clearly adheres to the title.

This is a marvelous album that offers a most singular interpretation of Ellingtonia.

Eddie Daniels & François Lacharme (President of the Jazz Academy)
Photo by Philippe Marchin

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