The Fans Interview Eddie Daniels

Who or what is the inspiration of your desire to make music for a living? Ali from New York

Eddie Daniels: The fact that I could make music for a living! The fact that people wanted to hear me play and that I was good enough. It started out small with little gigs when I was 13 and 14 years old. People seemed to want to pay for some of the gigs I had which were $10 at the time, so now it’s $11. I would gig with my friends such as Herbie Mickman. He lives in L.A., is a bass player, piano player, and does a lot of teaching. We would jam together. Everything is in evolution. You start small and suddenly you’re doing something. It’s hard to say who or what is the inspiration. Music is the inspiration.


How did you start playing jazz?  Rachel from Florida

ED: I would play along with the TV actually. I would listen to music and play along with the TV. I also had a “Bugs” Bower book that one of my early teachers played with me. It had little boppy kind of melodies.


Why do you think clarinet is making such resurgence in jazz recently?  Bob from Maryland

ED: It’s a great instrument and maybe the instruments, the mouthpieces, and the reeds are better (not that the instruments are getting easier). You get some guys who are models, like myself and Paquito [D’Rivera], and some other people who are playing it out in front of people, and people are liking it. We are making records, people hear it, and say they want to play it.

I go to a lot of colleges. Recently, I was in Atlanta at Georgia State University and did a residency, and then I was at the University of California in East Bay. All these young kids – they’re loving the clarinet! When they hear someone really do it, they get inspired.


I notice that it’s becoming a primary instrument more in the last couple of years. For a while, it was considered to be a double. It’s great to see that people are really focused on the clarinet.

ED: In the classical world, there always have been. In the jazz world, the guy who plays jazz on clarinet also still plays saxophone. Paquito plays saxophone. I don’t know anyone who only plays jazz on the clarinet who doesn’t play the saxophone. I think it’s having inspiration from someone: Buddy DeFranco, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw. It made me want to play it and I had been playing saxophone at the time. I think I’ve inspired some people and some of the other players coming along are pretty good.


As a doubler, what is your history with the flute?  Michael from Pennsylvania

ED: I am not a doubler. I play the clarinet, I play the saxophone, and I play the flute. I don’t play the flute as much anymore. When I play each of those instruments, I try to play at the highest level for that instrument. The doubling thing or even the word “doubler” is like you have a plate of food with linguini, string beans, and potatoes with all that stuff in front of you. For me, the clarinet is one plate, and it’s mostly what I spend my energy on. The saxophone is just a voice that I’ve spent a lot of years on. When I play the tenor, I am a tenor player. There ain’t no doubt. When I did play the flute and was studying it seriously, I was only a flute player at that moment. I don’t like the word doubler. There was a band I played with where nobody really doubled well on clarinet or flute. They were overall very average doublers. They didn’t really play those instruments until they really cared enough to spend 10,000 hours on one of them.

It does take a lot of time. There’s a book called Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell – very popular book right now. He talks about anybody who does anything really great has to spend a minimum of 10,000 hours doing it. So there’s no such thing as a “doubler” in my view. It’s like being married to three women and trying to make them all believe that they’re the only one. Each one has to believe that they’re the only one, but it’s much easier to do with instruments.


What is the single most important thing an upcoming jazz student should know?  Kirby from Kentucky

ED: It is just playing your instrument at a very high quality. You hear a lot of jazz players who are very talented, but better jazz players than they are instrumentalists. I am always perfecting my craft as a clarinetist and as a saxophonist with technique of the instrument. You can’t just be an “upcoming jazz student,” you have to be a fine instrumentalist.


What about somebody who’s never played in the jazz idiom before?

ED: Well, that’s 10,000 hours to study. If you have never done it before, you have to love it; try it, taste it, jump in the water, and see what it feels like. But, if you really love it, it’s going to be really natural to you because you have been hearing it all your life. It’s a part of our music.


What advice would you give to someone who’s about to take their instrument into a repair shop? Miles from California

ED: Find out from your friends if the guy does good work before you take it in. There aren’t a lot of guys who do repair well. Standing over someone is not going to help; they won’t like it and you won’t know what they’re doing. I would say you play it before you leave the shop. Play your instrument in front of the person and say, “It still doesn’t feel right.” or “Wow! That feels great!” Don’t be afraid to say it doesn’t feel right or what you think is wrong because if they’re good, they’ll find it for you.


What advice or recommendations do you have for clarinet microphones?  Andrew from Illinois

ED: The AMT microphone is what I use.  That’s the best.  It’s fine microphone technology and is a two-headed microphone.  They make microphones for all instruments.  It’s a terrific company.


Tell us about your CD with Roger Kellaway, Duke at the Roadhouse.

ED: It’s the music of Duke Ellington. We did it live at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe. Half of it is piano and clarinet, and the other half is with the cello. We kind of mixed it so you hear a duet of the clarinet and piano – beautiful jazz Roger and I make together – and then he adds the cello. It’s quite beautifully done and very different. The cello plays jazz lines and the way Roger wrote the lines, everyone thinks it’s improvised. The aim is to make beautiful music. The CD was released in June.

Join the conversation