The baritone saxophone is one jazz's neglected instruments -- not as neglected as the bass sax, but neglected nonetheless. There have been some great baritonists over the years -- Gerry Mulligan, Pepper Adams, Harry Carney, Cecil Payne, Ronnie Cuber, among others -- but even so, the baritone isn't nearly as prominent in jazz as the tenor, alto, or soprano. Thankfully, Claire Daly is among those who recognize the baritone's richness, and the East Coast baritonist continues to remind listeners of that richness on her third album as a leader, Heaven Help Us All. This 2004 session has one foot in hard bop and the other in post-bop; Daly is equally proficient in both areas, and she is as engaging on the post-bop of John Coltrane's "Dear Lord" as she is on hard bop performances of "Old Devil Moon" and "My Blue Heaven" (a well-known standard that was a number one smash for pop singer Gene Austin back in the Prohibition days of 1927). Daly also finds the bop potential in Ron Miller's "Heaven Help Us All," which is incorrectly listed as a Stevie Wonder composition in the credits; although Wonder and Joan Baez both recorded the song and made it famous in the early '70s, Miller is the one who actually wrote it. Although mostly instrumental, this album includes a few spoken word/beat poetry contributions from vocalist Kirpal Gordon. Spoken word is very much an acquired taste, but Gordon is good at it -- and Daly is quite inspired on a medley that combines "Evil Ways" (one of Santana's major hits) with Gordon's "Don't Dismiss the Bliss." Daly does a little singing here and there, but that isn't her forte -- the baritone sax is where she really soars, and her baritone playing makes Heaven Help Us All well worth the price of admission.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson