The recital Friday by clarinetist Eddie Daniels and pianist Mike Garson was more than your run-of-the-mill concert. It was a one-in-a-million triumph.
Consider the setting: The stunningly handsome Pompeian Room of the Doheny Mansion at Mount St. Mary’s College, where jazz had never before been heard. Consider the repertoire: From Carl Maria von Weber and Francis Poulenc to David Raksin, Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins.
The mainly classical first half was no novelty in itself; Benny Goodman was playing Mozart and Bartok in the 1930s. However, the chamber music setting (under the auspices of the Da Camera Society), and the incorporation of both disciplines in the same concert, lent this occasion a special cachet.
Weber’s “Duo Concertante,” a demanding work by any standard, was performed impeccably by Garson, whose part was particularly demanding, and almost flawlessly by Daniels. The Poulenc “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano” succeeded even more fully. Separating these works was a medley of David Raksin’s “The Bad and the Beautiful” and “Laura,” played with minimal ornamentation, to the delight of the composer, who was in the audience.
After intermission, the two men simply improvised. If it is true that jazz, with its need for instant creation, is the harder of the two art forms to master, Daniels and Garson were just the men to prove it. Without rehearsal, they moved spontaneously from random abstractions to a series of pop and jazz standards.
Daniels, who several times levitated the salon with an unaccompanied chorus or two, has become the total master of one of the most challenging musical instruments. He creates fascinating lines that swing implacably, often laced with wit and surprises. Garson, though seemingly coming more from a classical place, was the ideal partner; his solos were as inventive as his interaction with Daniels was intelligent.
The audience, demanding encore after encore, reacted with a standing ovation and seemingly would have stayed all night. Many, it seemed, were concert-goers who had seldom before listened seriously to jazz on this level. One can only hope that with the ice now broken, this splendid room will be the setting for more such dual-purpose ventures.