Making good on 2009's pleasant and compulsively listenable Duet of One, the two charge into the evening with an explorative, polyrhythmic remake of Gershwin's Strike Up The Band," stretching it out into an eight-minute rumination. Later, Daniels (a founding member of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra) and Kellaway (Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, Clark Terry, Bob Brookmeyer, Ben Webster, Wes Montgomery and Sonny Rollins) offer a sighing, very emotional take on Somewhere" from Broadway's West Side Story," as well as new versions of Monk's Rhythm-a-ning," Sondheim's Pretty Women" and the traditional standard America the Beautiful" ... which sounds, dare I say it, a little funky. I was drawn further in by the project's original compositionsprincipally from Kellaway, though Pretty Woman" is combined with Daniels' atmospheric Etude of a Woman." The pianist's witty Capriccio Twilight" possesses what can only be called an undulating swing, while the album-closing 50 State Rambler" is marked by a sharp-edged modernity.
As with everything so friendly, though, Live at the Library of Congressdue Jan. 12, 2012 from IPO Recordingscan be at times a bit too polite, almost congenial. Kellaway's Place That You Want To Call Home," for instance, is so lilting that it almost threatens to float away, and the Monk track is this project's true disappointment: Daniels and Kellaway, clearly more comfortable with chamber-jazz plushness, struggle to replicate the song's original angular bebop attitudeedging dangerously close, at times, to the saccharine. Of course, those looking for the fusion experimentation of Daniels' intriguing 1989 recording Nepenthe needn't bother.
Still, there's no denying this album'sand this pair'skindred musical spirit, nor their inherent likeability. Kellaway brings a sense of common-sense wonder to the proceedings, while Daniels remains a literary, limber tunesmith. And, considering the settings of this recording, it's probably asking a little much for either to get too far outside.