Bringing to the E Spot the music and songs that won the French equivalent of a Grammy for their Duke at the Roadhouse album, Eddie Daniels and Roger Kellaway gave tribute to the sounds and inspirations of Mr. Ellington while displaying his compositions in a way that would have made the master nod in approval.
When on tenor sax, Daniels weaved and bobbed between Kellaways musical jabs on a free flowing round on “UMMG” while on a solo read of “They Say It’s Wonderful” Daniels’ filled the room with a majestic aria mixing the warmth of bel canto and the fervor of a Rossini overture. Switching to clarinet, Daniels displayed his joy and flexibility as he and Kellaway went back and forth like a singles tournament on “I Want To Be Happy” where they would deliver unison lines and then give each other a moment in the spotlight. A take of “ Creole Love Call” had Daniels’ ebullient and alarmingly clear tone moan and cry, cutting like a Spyderco knife while Kellaway rumbled and gurgled like a rolling rive.
Extra texture was added when cellist Vanessa Freebairn-Smith joined the stage to add swaying and longlingly lithe lines to a rapturous read of “In A Sentimental Mood” that perfectly captured the nostalgia of the piece. A rich “Mood Indigo” had the three bring out various hues of blue while Kellaway’s own “Mostly On A D String” was highlighted by the pianist’s patented bluesy stride, Daniels’ whimsical lyricism and Freebairn-Smith’s sighing bow. All through the evening, Kellaway and Daniels formed the perfect team, with the former’s patented style of sounding like he’s auditioning for a saloon scene in a James Stewart western and Daniels mixing visions of modern classical and classic swing, teaming up superbly as on “Duke In Ojai.” The melding of tenor sax and cello together on a Mozartian version of “In A Mellotone” created a rich creamy sonic sauce that would make any French chef jealous.
By the time they closed with a prismatic “Perdido” and a bouncing ballet of “Just Friends,” Daniels and Kellaway confirmed that the Galls and Huguenots may have more appreciation and knowledge our America’s classical music than its own creators.