A Tribute to Duke Ellington, Vol. 1


Take The A Train - 9.52 
Satin Doll - 6.35 
I'm Beginning to See the Light - 3.43 
It Don't Mean a Thing - 5.46 
In My Solitude - 7.33 
Don't Get Around Much Anymore - 10.29 
Satin Doll - 4.56 
The Jeep is Jumping - 5.40 
Blue Light - 4.32 
Sophisticated Lady - 5.55 

This first of two volumes in tribute to Duke Ellington features a mix of artists recorded on stage, in a club or the studio. Tenor saxophonist Illinois Jacquet is accompanied by organist Milt Buckner and drummer Tony Cromble for a 1971 date at Ronnie Scott’s featuring an extended workout of Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.” Jacquet’s robust, big-toned solo is fueled by Buckner’s rhythmic and punchy organ, with Cromble providing steady support. Pianist Jay McShann has a long career and these two selections from a 1974 solo concert at Montreux are among the highlights of this portion of his career. His glistening take of “Satin Doll” mixes in a bit of stride, lush chords and superb pedal technique. McShann’s jaunty take of “Im Beginning to See the Light” is also a spirited affair, with a few Art Tatum-like runs added to his stride. Violinist Stephane Grappelli and guitarist Barney Kessel made a series of albums together in the late 1960s and early 1970s, “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” is filled with fireworks. Earl Hines was one of the giants of piano. His solo piano concert from a 1974 Montreux set showcases a moving, richly-textured “In My Solitude” and a rollicking medley that goes from Mercer Ellington’s “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” (actually penned by Johnny Hodges but lost to Duke’s son in a card game!) to a brief detour into Ann Ronell’s “Willow Weep For Me.” Then he switches things up by incorporating one of his trademarks from his interpretation of “Boogie Woogie on the St. Louis Blues,” a sustained tremolo in his right hand as he improvises with his left. Brief snatches of several melodies rouse the crowd, ranging from “Summertime” to “The Volga Boatman” and beyond. Tenor sax giant Ben Webster and fellow expatriate American trumpeter Bill Coleman join forces with an English rhythm section for a swinging treatment of “Satin Doll.” Webster utilizes a Danish band for his big and brassy take of “The Jeep is Jumpin’,” with his signature tenor sound complimented by trombonist John Darville. The same band tackles an overlooked Ellington blues, “Blue Light,” suggesting a late evening/early morning all-nighter, with Webster’s solo blending a weary air with punchy outbursts. Finally, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin is joined by an outstanding rhythm section (pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Niels Pedersen and drummer Tootie Heath) for a lush, expressive treatment of Ellington’s ever-elegant “Sophisticated Lady.”

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