Eddie Daniels - First Prize

Eddie Daniels First Prize (Prestige 1966)

Eddie Daniels is a jazz saxophonist who turned into a master of classical music. Or no, Eddie Daniels is a concierto clarinetist who played modern jazz with the best of his generation. Well, yes on both counts but not exactly… At any rate, his 1967 recording debut as a leader on Prestige, First Prize, is a monster album.

Eddie Daniels - First Prize


Eddie Daniels (tenor saxophone, clarinet), Roland Hanna (piano), Richard Davis (bass), Mel Lewis (drums)


on September 8 & 12, 1966 at Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey


as PR 7506 in 1967

Track listing

Side A:
That Waltz
Falling In Love With Love
Love’s Long Journey
Side B:
Time Marches On
The Spanish Flee
The Rocker
How Deep Is The Ocean

Born in Brooklyn, New York City in 1941, Eddie Daniels started on alto at the age of 9, then studied clarinet on Juillard at 13. Daniels also mastered the tenor, soprano and baritone saxophone, as well as the flute. His first professional job was on tenor saxophone with clarinetist Tony Scott at the Half Note in the fall of 1965. Daniels filled a sax chair in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra in the late sixties and early seventies, but it was on clarinet that Daniels first gained recognition as part of that highly acclaimed group, winning Downbeat Magazine’s New Star On Clarinet competition in 1966. Daniels developed into a virtuoso of both jazz and classical music, a rare accomplishment. Accolades from a certain duo of renowned ‘Leonards’ comprise ample proof of Daniel’s reputation:

Leonard Feather: ‘It is a rare event in jazz where one man can all but reinvent an instrument bringing it to a new stage of revolution.’

Leonard Bernstein: ‘Eddie Daniels combines elegance and virtuosity in a way that makes me remember Arthur Rubinstein. He is a thoroughly well-bred demon.’

Daniels was a sought-after player who was part of, subsequently, the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra from 1966-72 and the Bobby Rosengarden Orchestra, the house band of the Dick Cavett Show, from 1972-78. Onwards from the eighties, Daniels concentrated more and more on his clarinet work in classical music. His jazz discography includes side dates on Dave Pike’s The Doors Of Perception, Freddie Hubbard’s live album The Hub Of Hubbard, Don Patterson’s The Return Of Don Patterson, Yusef Lateef’s Ten Years Hence and George Benson’s Benson & Farrell. As a leader, Daniels followed up First Prize with the Japanese Columbia album This Is New. Further albums include A Flower For All Seasons, his 1973 cooperation on Choice with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, with whom Daniels would build a life-long association, 1988’s Memos From Paradise and 2013’s Duke At The Roadhouse.

In 1966, Daniels also won The International Competion For Modern Jazz on saxophone in Vienna, Austria. Hence, presumably, the title of his debut album. On First Prize, Daniels is supported by the rather unbeatable rhythm crew of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, Mel Lewis, Richard Davis and Roland Hanna. Daniels is quite impossible to beat himself. A strong, alternately breathy and piercing tenor sound, which occasionally goes up to the alto register, facilitates an exuberant, flexible style that brings to mind Sonny Rollins and, to a lesser extent, John Coltrane. Clearly in utter control of the tenor, clearly laboring with love, Daniels playfully juggles with tender swing-era whispers and behind-the-beat slurs, perfect legato sections and ferocious forward motion flights and sheets of sound.

Latin-type tunes, like Felicidad and The Spanish Flee, start tenderly and breathy and end up squeezed out like blocks of oak wood in a shredder. It’s overwhelming, not so much because Daniels is showing his fists, but instead is in perfect command of his ferocity. The section in Felicidad in which the tumbling notes of Daniels ricochet off Hanna’s percussive chords is particularly enamouring. Just as well, Daniels relishes standards like Falling In Love With Love, developing a striking contrast between a partly slurred, rubato theme and a hi-octane bebop solo. Hanna chimes in with chubby, Silver-type chords and flowing right hand lines that reveal a definite liking for Bud Powell. The brush work of Mel Lewis carries the tune, it’s steady, holding in check toying Mr. Daniels, while simultaneously providing an almost ethereal sound carpet, like a lake of gentle gulves that roll upon the shore. Throughout the album, the rhythm trio is obviously having fun on a very high musical level.

On clarinet, Daniels is ambidextrous and imposing. Time Marches On employs a classical (overdubbed) theme, seguing into a gentle bossa tune. The Rocker reveals Daniels’ ability to bebop on the instrument, as he fills the uptempo burner with notes that bounce to and fro, much like pinballs that race through the limetless little halls and creviches of an Escher drawing. The organic, wooden sound of the clarinet and the lyrical and muscular lines of Eddie Daniels bring added depth to an album that was already very impressive as a modern tenor sax job. An overwhelming debut.

First Prize is not on Spotify or YouTube. however, Daniels’ version of John Coltrane’s Giant Steps from his second album, This Is New, (listen here) gives a good impression of his mastery of the tenor saxophone. Also on YouTube are a number of instructions that Eddie Daniels gave a couple of years ago as an endorser for Backun. Hear Eddie talk about the blues here, speed and agility here and his dexterity on reed, clarinet and woodwind here. Confident, witty, flexible, just like his music. A handsome man to boot, could’ve been George “Rosemary’s Nephew” Clooney’s older brother.

Don Patterson - The Return Of

Don Patterson The Return Of Don Patterson (Muse 1972/1974)

The Return Of Don Patterson was a return to the recording studio for the Columbus, Ohio born organist. Patterson had a steady run of solo recordings for Prestige in the sixties, until drug problems sent his career off on a wild tangent. During the interval of 1969-71 Patterson was decidedly under the radar, gigging exclusively in and around Gary, Indiana. The session for The Return Of Don Patterson found Patterson in excellent form, cooperating well with a remarkably proficient group of players he was heretofore unacquainted with.

Don Patterson - The Return Of


Don Patterson (organ), Eddie Daniels (tenor, soprano & alto saxophone), Ted Dunbar (guitar), Freddie Waits (drums)


on October 30, 1972 at RCA Studios, NYC


as Muse 5005 in 1974

Track listing

Side A:
Jesse Jackson
Theme From The Odd Couple
Side B:
Theme From Love Story
The Lamp Is Low

It opens with Jesse Jackson, a blues with a lithe but dynamic back beat, dedicated to the ‘Country Preacher’. It’s evident from the start that this is not going to be a generic soul jazz record. First in line, Ted Dunbar immediately makes this clear. He employs a dry, ‘plucky’ sound and an authoritative attack and just when you think he shall go left he turns to the right; in short, he plays very interesting guitar devoid of clichés. Patterson lays down funky single note lines, using his right hand almost exclusively, which keeps your attention focused.

For the remainder of the album – that sounds crisp and fresh after forty years, indeed to the extent that it could convincingly disguise as a contemporary record – the band proves to be capable of handling varied repertoire. I’m particularly enamoured of the way saxophonist Eddie Daniels sweetly states the theme (no pun intended) of Theme From The Odd Couple and of the sense of dynamics and swing he employs in his solo in Theme From Love Story – a subtle march that evolves into a driving shuffle. Soulful and intelligent blowing, both on alto and soprano. A treat! The latter is but one example of the propulsive rhythm that drummer Freddie Waits provides; using tasteful and spontaneous accents throughout, Waits is volatile at the song’s climax, kicking his bandmates’ butts with crazy, amazing press rolls.

Master of ceremony Don Patterson is in fine form himself, concluding his solo in bassist Jimmy Garrison’s bebop figure Lori with an organist’s take on Wes Montgomery-style octaves and transforming Maurice Ravel’s The Lamp Is Low into a typically coherent and endearing ballad.

Don Patterson was known as a melodically creative organist and bandmates Freddie Waits and Ted Dunbar could be described as young veterans with a bag full of diverse experience. But at the time many people must’ve been surprised by the confident and unorthodox work of Eddie Daniels. A versatile reedman, he recorded one album for Prestige in 1967 – First Prize – and held an underrated tenor chair in the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra; thereafter Daniels has evolved into a renowned innovator of the clarinet, jazz and classical. Considering Daniels’ excellent technique on this album, in hindsight this seems quite logical.

Why not conclude with one of Ira Gitlers’ apt and sensible statements in his sleevenotes of The Return Of Don Patterson?

There are a lot of people who turn up their noses at the cliche that the tenor-organ combination has been for some time now. This set is for them. And it will also open the noses of the freaks who can’t get enough of saxophone and organ. Don Patterson doesn’t overwhelm you. He’s got so many other things going, he doesn’t have to do it that way.

Indeed, he doesn’t. I’d like to add that one of the many other things Patterson’s got going is an outstanding bunch of sidemen.

YouTube: Theme From The Odd Couple