Claire Daly 2648 West Grand Boulevard
When baritone saxophonist and composer Claire Daly took on the challenge of making a jazz CD of Motown music, she set out a couple of rules for the arrangements: the music had to stay true to the harmonies of the original songs while transforming them into the jazz idiom, and the songs had to be fun without being corny. With nine previous releases as a leader and an extensive performing schedule, this veteran, New York City-based musician was certainly up to the task.
Motown has had a tremendous impact on popular music. Although it was founded over 55 years ago, Motown’s music and artists are still relevant and popular today, and many of the songs that came out of their Hitsville offices in Detroit have been covered by jazz artists over the years. But for Daly and Doug Moody, the jazz DJ and producer of this CD, the music resonates in a very personal way.
It was Moody’s love of the music and his amazing experience at 2648 WEST GRAND BOULEVARD, the address of Motown’s original offices in Detroit that sparked the inception of this project. As a kid, Moody loved Motown’s music so much that he began putting together a complete discography of their records, something the young company hadn’t yet done. So he was thrilled that in 1963 his parents decided to take a family vacation in Detroit. He wrote to the company and told them of his plans, asking if he could visit. The people at Motown were very gracious and invited him to come. When he got there, they not only took him on a tour, but he got to meet Berry Gordy and the Four Tops, who were in the recording studio. They were also kind enough to give him a big bag of records to help him complete his discography.
Fast forward 52 years and Moody, who now owns Glass Beach Jazz, asked Daly if she would like to do a Motown tribute album for his label. Daly, too, had her very early experience with Motown luminaries. When she was younger than 10, her family was on vacation at the Shoreham Hotel where the Supremes were performing. The next day they ran into Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson at the hotel pool where Daly got their autographs. The encounter made a deep impression on the little girl. As Daly recounts in the liner notes, “This music is in my fiber. When I hear it or think of it, I’m transported back to that kid growing up in Yonkers in my bedroom with the radio,” she said. “And it’s not just me, just about every jazz musician has a Motown story. The Motown musicians were jazz musicians.”
Daly and Moody had worked together on a previous project entitled Baritone Monk. Moody relates how he came to bring Daly on board for that project: “I first heard Claire in the late 90s and fell in love with her sound. She plays with great emotion and can swing like crazy, but she also manages to maintain a sense of humor. She can also play quite beautifully, which makes sense because she’s such a beautiful person. When I envisioned the concept for a Motown CD, Claire was the first person I thought of.”
Moody suggested a few tunes, but by and large left it up to Daly to choose the repertoire. Daly relates the process of choosing and arranging the tunes. “One of the best things about making this CD was the long hours I spent on Spotify listening to the entire Motown oeuvre. It took a while to narrow down the tunes, and even longer to arrange them. It was more difficult than I thought it would be. My band was very generous with their time and frequently came over to my house to help me work through ideas.”
The band comprises longtime musical compatriots of Daly. Pianist Steve Hudson, bass player Mary Ann McSweeney, and drummer Peter Grant are leaders in their own right and were Daly’s rhythm section on her previous two recordings. Daly felt the music needed a guitar, so she brought in Jerome Harris. Harris has appeared on more than 60 recordings going back to the 1970s.
Five of the 11 tunes on this disc were penned by Smokey Robinson, who, with his band The Miracles, was responsible for 37 Top 10 hits for Motown. Daly truly captures the essence of his writing, and although known for her lyrical, bebop-inspired bari playing, she is a multi-reed instrumentalist who contributes two lovely flute pieces on Robinson tunes, including beautiful renditions of “The One Who Really Loves You” and “The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game.” From the opening number, “Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever,” performed originally by The Four Tops, to the closing tune, “Ain’t That Peculiar,” made famous by the inimitable Marvin Gaye, Daly manages to re-imagine these pop chestnuts in a jazz vein, making them fresh and new while keeping the integrity of both genres.
About Claire Daly
Claire Daly graduated Berklee College of Music as an alto player and traveled on the road with both jazz and rock bands. However, once she played the baritone sax, her life was changed forever. "It was an epiphany. I felt like, there I am – this is my voice." Her first CD as a leader, Swing Low, was released in 1999. It was received very warmly, and Daly was nominated by the Jazz Journalists Association as the "Best New Artist of the Year." Swing Low was also a favorite of President Clinton while he was in office and was added to a listening station in the William Jefferson Clinton Library in Little Rock as a CD significant to the President while in office. Since then, she has been a winner/nominee of many critics and readers polls, and has won the JJA Baritone Saxophonist of the Year award. She has performed on numerous CDs as a side person, and her band People Like Us, with her long-time collaborator pianist and composer Joel Forrester, released 5 CDs on Koch Jazz. She was the original baritone player for the Diva Big Band, anchoring its horn section for seven years. The Baritone Monk CD was on the JazzWeek Charts for 24 weeks and spent 9 weeks in the Top 10. She has headlined at the Monterey Jazz Festival, KC Rhythm‘n Ribs Fest, Pittsfield Jazz Festival and more, in addition to touring the United States with her quartet. 2648 WEST GRAND BOULEVARD is her tenth CD as a leader.
About Doug Moody
Doug Moody is a jazz DJ, CD producer, and businessman. His weekly show, “Jazz From The Coast,” can be heard on KOZT. He is also a co-owner of North Coast Brewery. He produces live jazz shows at the Sequoia Room in Fort Bragg, CA, and he began Glass Beach Jazz in 2015. Its first release was Pete Malinverni’s Emerging Markets. 2648 WEST GRAND BOULEVARD is just the second release from the label.