Ellingtonia 2000

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birthday on April 29, 1899 The Duke Ellington Society announced a year-long centenary celebration. In keeping with this event, each issue of JazzUSA from now until Duke’s birthday will include an Ellingtonia section covering releases that feature the music of Duke Ellington (don’t they all?)

This issue we’ve got a handful-plus of new releases as well as reissues from some of Duke Ellington’s best sidemen: Arkadia Jazz All-StarsDon SebeskyC-Jam All StarsCootie WilliamsPaul GonsalvesCarol SloaneRay Barretto & New World Spirit

Thank You Duke Arkadia Jazz All-Stars
Thank You, Duke.
(Arkadia Jazz)
by Ray Redmond

Arkadia Record’s third release in it’s Grammy-nominated “Thank You” series of musical homages to the giants of jazz is Thank You, Duke!. This CD pays tribute to Duke Ellington’s remarkable legacy (100 years after his birth) with talented and diverse collection of Arkadia Jazz artists: Benny Golson, Joanne Brackeen, T. K. Blue (Talib Kibwe), Billy Taylor, Harold Land, Joris Teep (with Don Braden and Chris Potter) and the Joe Henderson Project.

The Ellington-associated melodies included on Thank You, Duke! were composed over a 40-year period (from the late 1920’s “Mood Indigo” to Billy Strayhorn’s mid-60’s “Isfahan”) but there is no sign of age in any of the timeless themes, certainly not in this interpretation. Benny Golson performs warm versions of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and ” Mood Indigo” with an all-star trio (pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Carl Allen), bringing an arranger’s sensibility to his well planned renditions. Billy Taylor (a close friend of Ellington’s for 30 years) interprets a sensitive “In A Sentimental Mood.” The innovative pianist Joanne Brackeen plays “Sophisticated Lady” solo and “Come Sunday” with a trio, extending Duke’s ideas and creating fresh new music. One of Arkadia’s most significant new discoveries, T .K. Blue (Talib Kibwe), performs the beautiful “Day Dream” on alto with a quartet and takes “Chromatic Love Affair” as a soprano-piano duet with veteran Randy Weston. The Joe Henderson Project, an impressive unit with pianist Eric Reed, vibraphonist Steve Nelson, trumpeter Terell Stafford and drummer Carl Allen, pays tribute to the great tenor by playing “Isfahan,” a song that Henderson usually uses to begin each of his performances. Tenor-saxophonist Harold Land’s project with a string section arranged by Ray Ellis yielded his lyrical version of “In A Sentimental Mood.”

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Don Sebesky
A Joyful Noise/A Tribute To Duke Ellington
by Ricky E. Miller

This album, a follow up to Sebesky’s previous Grammy award-winning tribute “Remember Bill: A Tribute to Bill Evans”, is a recasting of Ellington’s music with Sebesky’s own orchestral palette. Joyful Noise features new Sebesky arrangements of seven Ellington favorites: “Mood Indigo,” “Creole Love Call,” “Chelsea Bridge,” “Caravan,” “Warm Valley,” “Take the Coltrane” and “Satin Doll,” as well as a new transcription of “Ko-Ko.” Completing the album is an original triptych dedicated to Duke, the “Joyful Noise Suite.”

Joining Sebesky on Joyful Noise is a band that features the cream of New York’s jazz scene, including trombonist Bob Brookmeyer, alto saxophonist/clarinetist Phil Woods, bassist Ron Carter, trumpeter Tom Harrell and guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli. The rhythm section is comprised of pianist Jim McNeely and bassist Dennis Irwin of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and drummer Dennis Mackrel of the Manhattan Symphony Jazz Orchestra.

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C-Jam All Stars
diminuendo, crescendo and blues
RCA Victor

Recorded for the Bertelsmann Book and Record Club in Munich during a sell-out European tour in 1958, this extremely rare album captures two of Ellington’s most important soloists, trumpeter Clark Terry and tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, in a relaxed jam session of standards, originals and Ellington staples. Never before available in any format outside the original Club LP pressing, the album features the two leaders at their ebullient best, supported by the ace Ellington rhythm section of Jimmy Woode and Sam Woodyard, as well as Munich-based pianist Carlos Diernhammer. The album includes “Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue,” “I Cover the Waterfront,” “C-Jam Blues,” “Evad,” “it Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” “Autobahn,” “Willow Weep for Me,” “Hildegard,” “Ocean Motion” and “Jivin’ with Fritz.”

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Cootie Williams
In Hi-Fi
RCA Victor

Recorded in 1958, this big band studio session featured Cootie Williams, whose plunger-muted growl had helped define the classic Ellington sound in the ’30s and ’40s. After leaving Ellington, Williams spent about 20 years as a band leader, before rejoining Ellington in the early ’60s. During that time, he continued to develop his signature sounds and his easy swinging style. This reissue includes the entire original album session plus 11 additional R&B flavored singles from 1957, featuring Cootie in a variety of settings.

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Paul Gonsalves
Ellingtonia Moods & Blues
RCA Victor

Recorded in New York in 1960 and previously issued only in France, this album features Ellington star tenor Paul Gonsalves alongside band mates Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance in a program of tunes by Gonsalves, Hodges, Ellington and Strayhorn. Completing the band are trombonist Mitchell “Booty” Woods, pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Al Hall and drummer Oliver Jackson. Remastered from the original source, the sound and the swing spring to life.

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Carol Sloane
Romantic Ellington
by Ray Redmond

This is a slow, romantic release. Carol Sloane’s husky voice beautifully delivers the melodious Ellington tunes. Joined by sax man Benny Golson on a few of the covers, Carol carries you through the CD with an understated control that makes each track a new experience, a joy to the ear. With over thirty recordings to her credit, Carol Sloane is not an amateur songbird, but rather a polished, intense jazz singer that ranks up there with today’s best.

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Portraits in Jazz and Clave Ray Barretto & New World Spirit
Portraits in Jazz and Clave

This album features Barretto’s band augmented by four world-class soloists; guitarist Kenny Burrell, saxophonist Joe Lovano, trombonist and shell virtuoso Steve Turre and bassist Eddie Gomez, in a program of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn favorites in observance of the Ellington centennial. Also included are new arrangements of compositions by Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Raphael Hernandez and classical composer Manuel de Falla. For more information visit the Ray Barretto web site

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