There’s an Artist Recital Series at my college, and the first concert this year (on what happens to be my siblings’ birthday, hooray hooray) was played by the Eddie Daniels Quartet. Eddie Daniels on clarinet and sax, Darek Oles on the bass, Alan Pasqua on the piano, and Joe La Barbera on the drums.
I’m going to start with the visuals. Daniels’ clarinet is made of a dark red wood and the rim of the bell was thicker and rounder than I am used to seeing. His sax—well, it was a sax, and the way it gleamed made me miss playing the trumpet. La Barbera’s drum set was probably made of some light wood or something, but under the stage lights it looked rose gold, though; not Apple’s rose gold, which is super pink, but like real rose gold, which is barely pink at all and in fact is quite peachy. Oles was playing Milt Hinton’s bass, which was bequeathed to the college upon his passing in 2000. The bass was beautifully worn, and its strings looked like spun gold under the light. Pasqua was playing a Steinway. Now I’ve seen Steinways before, but this one was something special. Steinways make me feel a certain kind of way. This one shone so well I could count the strings on the underside of the lid, black and glossy like some fancy space abyss. The neat gold logo, the good font—Steinways sing richesse to me, and I love it.
During the show, while he was not playing, Daniels would drift off to the right (my right, stage left), nodding his head, saying things I couldn’t hear, exclaiming “yeah!” at his pals’ solos, gesturing for us to clap. He was very Springsteenian in that respect. Pasqua would lift out of his seat when he went for an emphatic high chord. Oles kept closing his eyes when he got really into his part. And La Barbera was just smashing away. I often wanted to get up and stomp around while he played. About halfway through, maybe 9:15, the people on either side of me left, so I started drumming on the edge of the pew, boppin’ about like no one’s business. (Almost nobody was nodding their heads or tapping their feet. It was really weird. The audience was mostly old white people—not that all old white people don’t nod and tap to jazz, but these old white people didn’t, which was weird to me. They did stand at the end though, and the couple behind me was tapping, nodding, drumming, mmhmming.)
The set was announced as they went, and it was:
“Three and One,” by Thad Jones
“Pretty Women,” from Steven Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd
“Duke at the Roadhouse,” by Eddie Daniels
“Rain Check,” by Billy Strayhorn
? (I liked it, but unfortunately the title wasn’t given)
“Barcelona,” by Alan Pasqua
“Turnaround,” by Alan Pasqua
“Tango Nova,” by Eddie Daniels
“Tricotism,” by Oscar Pettiford
“Rhythm-a-ning,” Thelonious Monk
and, after a standing ovation and the quartet’s temporary exit:
“What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life,” by Michel Legrand
In a word, it was awesome. I discovered that I like jazz this summer, and this was good jazz, great jazz, and I enjoyed every note. Daniels’ clarinet was like a river onstage, and his sax was brassy and bossy but still could be soft at times. You could tell they were all having fun, and Pasqua was getting his life up there, his fingers dancing on the keys, hopping around on his seat. His solos were bright and virtuosic, warm. Oles, as I said, closed his eyes when he got into a piece, and it reflected in his playing. He was solid throughout, and his solo on “Tricotism” was unbelievable. Hinton’s bass seems a little magical to me, and Oles found a way to draw that witchery out in full force. La Barbera also had a fantastic solo, but I don’t remember on which song (that was when I was most tempted to rise and stomp). In another solo he used only brushes, and I loved that one as well.
My favorite number was “Rhythm-a-ning,” probably because it was the fastest. “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” was beautiful, as was “Barcelona.”
Daniels told us he played with Hinton, and Duke Ellington, and Gene Cipriano, too, I think. He told us stories about all three of them, along with Barbra Streisand. Hinton was called “the Judge,” and apparently he called everyone else “the Judge.” Daniels played with Ellington before his bar mitzvah, just him and Duke, New York, clarinet and piano. Gene Cipriano (“Cip”) once mumbled something as he walked past Barbra Streisand in a recording studio. She said, “What?!” and he said, “Yo Barbra, you’re beautiful.” According to Daniels, she melted. Also according to Daniels, Cipriano invented “yo.”
Milt Hinton was a jazz player, but he also was a photographer. The college has a bunch of his photos up in the conservatory lobby, and my favorite is this one, of Melba Liston (recording studio, New York, c. 1963):
In all I really enjoyed the experience. Jazz is such a warm sound to me, and it was nice and cozy in the chapel. I bought the CD afterward, and after I save the songs I’m going to send it to my grandfather, a true jazz-lovin’ man.
Sleep well, y’all. Tell your bandmates, your college professors, your students.