Eddie Daniels-Redefining The Clarinet For The Last Fifty Years

Eddie Daniels-Redefining The Clarinet For The Last Fifty Years

Eddie Daniels took on the challenge of the clarinet at an early age; over the course of the last five decades he has built a modern clarinet legacy, erected squarely upon the models of Benny Goodman and Buddy DeFranco, that can only be described as the greatest clarinet canon of all time.  Eddie Daniels Wikipedia entry can be found here, which is invaluable for the discography alone if you care to hunt down his many fantastic recordings…….https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Daniels

On July 8th, 2013, I guest wrote a blog post at Casa Valdez Studios regarding this Eddie Daniels solo on Oleo, recorded at a clinic he did at North Texas State University, on April 8, 1986.  Here is the link to that post, notice that an audio file of the solo and the pdf can be found at the end of the post…….http://davidvaldez.blogspot.com/2013/07/eddie-daniels-oleo-solo-transcription.html

I am reposting the article in its entirety here now, and then will continue with some new, further in depth exploration of the Eddie Daniels Clarinet Legacy in the future on my blog here at www.marksowlakis.com.  Be sure to have a good long look at the Casa Valdez Studios blog cited above, there is a gigantic backlog of interesting and informative posts at this site.  You can learn a lot, as I have, from the Casa Valdez treasure trove of information.  A big thank you to David Carlos Valdez for his efforts with this terrific blog.

Thoughts on Eddie Daniels’ Oleo solo from the clinic at NTSU, 4/8/1986

Meet the composer, Sonny Rollins….

Sonny Rollins




“Pulling apart Eddie Daniels solos is a very rewarding challenge.  It is my opinion that Eddie is the greatest jazz clarinetist ever, and I’ve struggled for years to deconstruct his playing and to find out what he’s thinking and feeling in his improvisations.  Gradually I’m getting better at hearing his ideas and figuring out a little bit of what he’s about, and getting further insight into what he does.  It’s amazing how he makes it sound so effortless.  There is much to be gained by slowing down his solos and really hearing and analyzing what’s going on.  He’s such a virtuoso that I simply cannot keep up with him at the tempos he’s capable of playing, but I do get a lot out of his work by slowing it down and going over it a little at a time.  There is so much here in the three choruses of his Oleo/rhythm changes solo……let’s take a look and see what we find.


After 16 bars of the basic Sonny Rollins melody, Eddie takes off on the bridge…..we should all be familiar with the III7-VI7-II7-V7 progression of these changes in bars 17-24.  He connects that common tone High E over the E7/A7, then snakes a nice phrase that outlines the A7 and hits some interesting dissonances, the #9/b9 combined with the minor 7th, major 3rd, and then descends chromatically to the 9th of the D7, before abruptly changing directions to finish the phrase in the upper register.  He then begins his phrase over the G7 by outlining an Ab triad before working it back to the G7 that then resolves to the A section….however in this A section, he plays a very cool ascending motive that rather seems to outline C diminished.  This motive is repeated and taken higher and higher, creating a nice displacement effect until it reaches it’s apex, high E, which serves to resolve this A section and set up his four note G7 eighth note phrase that begins his two chorus solo.  Already in this melody statement we’ve seen some interesting and masterful craftsmanship.

Eddie Daniels Pic


I’ve added the typical Rhythm Changes chord changes into this transcription not because they are the exact changes sounding at all times, but as a reference to analyze Eddie’s note choice against.  The eighth notes that transition chorus one into chorus two clearly outline the G7 to Cmaj cadence across this double bar line.  Bar two clearly outlines the Dmin G7, where he plays the #5 over the G7, and then he clearly uses some substitution…..it’s obvious that he’s using a 1235 figure over Cmaj, Ebmaj, Abmaj, Dbmaj, which are tritone subs for the standard A7, D7, G7 in bars three and four.  In bars 5 and 6 he goes right through the I, I7, IV changes and then uses sharp four diminished before finishing this phrase.  I love how there’s four beats of silence that follow, setting up the new motivic development phrases that follow for four bars.  He chooses nice dissonances over the A7 in bar 9 of this chorus, notice the flat 9 flat 13, and repeats this four note motive five times, before finishing this section with some obvious cadential material that leads into the bridge.  Right away in the bridge you should be struck by the obvious F melodic minor scale that he uses, which we should all know as an E altered dominant scale.  Over the following A7 chord is uses the b13, the f natural, in combination with the major third and the flat nine, before going into a diminished run over the D7, creating that familiar b9 sound.  Leading back to the A section he clearly uses a ii-V lick, then goes through the standard changes, outlining a D7b9 and a G7b9 in bar 27.  He transitions into the next chorus with a very cool syncopation of an ascending interval that he begins to widen out, and again he blows through the first 8 bars in a very typical diatonic fashion.  In bars 9, 10 and 11 he uses something that to me seems like a lick out of a classical concerto, maybe Weber or something similar.  He then finishes this first 16 bars with some more typical changes blowing……and then he does some nice stuff on the bridge that offsets the torrent of previous notes.  Notice the use of the #11, the G#, over the D7’s, and the sharp nine Bb and flat 13 E flat over the G7 ‘s.  I really like how he goes from the fast passages in the second eight, to the drawn out passages of the bridge, to the quarter note stuff in bars 25-27.  He finishes off this solo with two more typical bebop phrases that employ some very obvious C major scale stuff and passing tones between the chord tones through the final bar and final cadence, concluding the final phrase with the flat 9 sharp 9 G#/A# against the G7 that resolves to C major over the bar double line.

I can’t think of another clarinetist that can consistently conceive of these types of be bop solo ideas and execute them with such precision and aplomb as Eddie Daniels, particularly at these types of tempos.  It all sounds so simple until you strap on a reed, pick up a clarinet and try to keep up with him.  Good luck with that!  I hope you enjoyed this post and maybe even learned something!”

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