Various – Going Home: A Tribute to Duke Ellington

Going Home: A Tribute to Duke EllingtonA Tribute to Duke Ellington
Going Home
(Platinum Distrib. – 2000)
by John Barrett

An expected tribute, from an unexpected source. Ellington’s music is not simply “jazz” (a term he detested) and its influence spread to many genres. Here R & B greats from past and present show their gratitude; some do Duke’s songs, and some write their own. George Duke did “Going Home”, and it is an epic: train noises, big brass, lyrics from Jon Hendricks, and a cameo by Take 6. “Please don’t leave ‘cause I gotta go home/ So hurry on; I’m late but I gotta get on.” Over in Chicago, Otis Clay has “Got Nothin’ But the Blues”‘ his grainy voice sparkles among the horns. Then there are ballads to soothe you: Jonathan Butler’s smotth “Day Dream”, Diane Reeves ebullient on “Didn’t Know About You”. “The Duke” quotes many titles with Grady Tate’s wonderful voice; Everette Harp’s alto has its own poetry.

“Come Sunday” blossoms with woodwinds, the closest we get to a Ducal arrangement. Maybe the vocals are too lush, but the band is lovely. Jerry Butler yearns for the “Cotton Clubs”, later he’s joined by The Dells, who shout it good. Of all the originals, I like this best. Nancy Wilson is sweet (“Don’t Get Around Much”,) Barbara Morrison sassy (“Bring That Duke”) and “Don’t Mean a Thing” has a thick urban groove – and the greatest rap! “Some will treasure the memories of him and Strayhorn/ The band played on/ The Black Butterfly stayed strong/ ‘Cause if it ain’t got that groove/ Then your soul don’t move.” I wish I could say it that well.