“Reinventing Motown” with the Claire Daly Quintet

clairdalyPaul Mahder Gallery
222 Healdsburg Avenue
7  p.m. | $30

Event Sponsors North Coast Brewing Company and Healdsburg Sotheby’s International Real Estate


Female musicians have been steadily chipping away at the men’s world of jazz, but special admiration has to go to the women who tackle instruments associated with physicality, hence masculinity.  One of them is the baritone saxophone – big, heavy, lung-taxing – and while Claire Daly is not the first woman to play it, she is certainly giving it a good run.

On Thursday at Paul Mahder Gallery, Daly and her quintet will be performing her “Reinventing Motown” show (based on her new album, 2648 West Grand Boulevard, produced by Doug Moody for Glass Beach Records), subject matter that only adds another twist to her legend. The prospect of a woman playing baritone sax on jazz versions of Motown tunes is really too tantalizing to pass up. But let’s not be politically incorrect about it. If it were a man doing it, no one would notice. So why single out the woman? Well, maybe because Claire Daly is so good at it.

The New York native and Berklee College of Music graduate  won Down Beat magazine’s Critics’ Poll for Talent Deserving Wider Recognition six years running.  Her 1999 album debut Swing Low earned her a nomination from the Jazz Journalists Association for Best New Artist, her 2012 album Baritone Monk, produced by the North Coast Brewing Co. to promote its Brother Thelonious Ale, ended up on the jazz charts for 24 weeks, including 9 in the Top 10. She has recorded tributes to Rahsaan Roland Kirk (Rah! Rah!) and to her own cousin Mary Joyce (Mary Joyce Project: Nothing to Lose), who rode a dogsled solo from Juneau to Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1934. Strong women run in the family, but she is the only one capable of swinging a jazz band on a wide-bodied saxophone.

And here’s the thing that truly sets Daly apart. It’s not that she’s a woman. It’s not that she plays the baritone sax. It’s that she swings unbelievably hard.  She swings like Benny Goodman with wings.  For her Healdsburg show she’ll have help from Marcus McLauren on bass, Peter Grant on drums, Steve Hudson on piano, and the Bay Area’s own guitar hero John Schott.

Swinging versions of “I Second That Emotion,” “I Want You Back” and other Motown hits? You betcha. Anybody have a problem with this?