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JAZZ REVIEW : Daniels, Garson Show Technical Prowess

November 07, 1994|DON HECKMAN

Mozart made it a little tough on clarinet players from the very beginning. By composing some of the most lyrical themes ever written in the Clarinet Concerto and Quintet, he insisted that the instrument's music should reach beyond the rapid technical displays that are its familiar forte.

Well-trained as both a classical and jazz clarinetist, Eddie Daniels has thoroughly mastered the virtuosic elements of his horn. His duo performance at the Jazz Bakery on Friday with pianist Mike Garson was a marvel of finger-popping wizardry.

Playing a set of standards ranging from "Green Dolphin Street" and "What Is This Thing Called Love?" to "My Foolish Heart" and "Falling in Love With Love," Daniels was brilliant, whipping out phrases across nearly four octaves. His low register was warm and supple, his middle register bright and articulate, and his top notes clear and pure.

Too often, however, Daniels seemed to forget the message of the lyrical Mozart slow movements. Almost never opting to play less, rather than more, he sacrificed his singing tone and innate sense of balladry to the siren call of high-speed virtuosity.

In the moments when he caught his breath, laid back for a few beats, and let his improvisations find their own natural flow, Daniels revealed his real excellence as an imaginative jazz musician. But those moments--for this concert, at least--came too rarely.

Garson, in his own way, had similar problems. Like Daniels a superb technician, he played with great pianistic potency. But, also like Daniels, his soloing frequently set aside sensitivity and emotional insight in favor of keyboard pounding demonstrations of instrumental command.

Too bad. Duo performances afford a unique opportunity to peer inside the process of jazz improvisation. This time around the view was a bit too creatively monochromatic.

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