It pays to remember the beauty of the humble foundation. In these days of instant gratification and ego-stroking, it can be tough to lay down one’s sense of pride in service of something greater. With Live at the Library of Congress, the latest recording from Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway, these two musicians play in service of music, friendship and the joy of sharing an experience.
Daniels’ clarinet and Kellaway’s piano are the only instruments required to set nine compositions to life before a very fortunate audience.
Recorded in February of 2011, Live at the Library of Congress is a lovely exhibition of this duo. They’ve never gotten their full due for being the complete jazz masters they are, at least in my view, but their unpretentious, blissful approach to doing what they love is pure magic.
For some listeners, what’s found on this record will be ultimately sinful: tuneful, melodic, alive jazz bristling with character, precision and stylish timing. There are no howls of conceit or heaps of horns upon horns giving air to hysterical egos.
Instead, Kellaway and Daniels get together for the sake of the music. The soloing is in service of the tune and the swing, not the just the players. In this world, the real jazz ethos is grounded in what happens when the splendour of Gershwin, Monk, Sondheim, and, yes, Kellaway meets the creativity and passion of two unique artists. It is not just the solo or the improvisation or the composition; it is the totality of form that counts.
Daniels and Kellaway play with naturalness, attaching to reverberations and working through the nitty-gritties without deserting the soul of each song. A fleeting cuckoo-like thing on Kellaway’s “Capriccio Twilight” induces a twinkling of humour, while Daniels’ divine “Etude of a Woman” draws tenderly into Stephen Sondheim’s “Pretty Women” from Sweeney Todd.
Kellaway and Daniels play delightfully in unison, too, as exhibited on pieces like Klenner and Lewis’ “Just Friends” or Kellaway’s charming “A Place That You Want to Call Home.”
A graceful, substantial, sincere recording, Live at the Library of Congress is a token of the exquisiteness of humble foundations. Kellaway and Daniels play without pursuing exaltation. They perform as friends, enjoying one another’s company and enjoying the silhouettes of the music. The need to be flamboyant, to draw attention to kitschy soloing and compositional ego-stroking, is left elsewhere.