Cynthia Felton: Come Sunday: The Music Of Duke Ellington (2010)

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Cynthia Felton: Come Sunday: The Music Of Duke Ellington
Vocalist Cynthia Felton turned a lot of heads with her debut, Afro Blue: The Music Of Oscar Brown Jr.
Oscar Brown Jr.
Oscar Brown Jr.
1926 - 2005
vocalist
(Self Produced, 2009), and her sophomore effort is bound to gain even more attention. While Brown is an important, if often overlooked figure, Felton ups the ante with her honoree of choice here.

Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
is considered by many to be the alpha and omega of jazz. Artists have been paying tribute to Ellington for generations with single song salutations and album-length nods, and Felton's work is a worthy addition to this lengthy list. Felton is the real deal, with a Bachelor's degree from Berklee, a Master's degree from NYU, and a Doctorate in Jazz Studies from USC, and her studious nature and stunning voice make for a winning combination. On Come Sunday she takes a baker's dozen of classics from the Ellington repertoire—including a pair of tunes from the pen of Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
, and two from Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
1900 - 1984
trombone
—and treats them with reverence, while still revising them to her liking.

A lengthy list of musicians appears on the album, and Felton handpicks her ensemble for each track. Sometimes a trio does the trick, as on the album opening "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing." Felton soars over Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
Terri Lyne Carrington
b.1965
drums
's drums, as she introduces the song, and the trio hits a feistier tempo to let the song play out, with some killer scatting and drum soloing adding to the excitement. Pianist Donald Brown
Donald Brown
b.1954
, bassist Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
Robert Hurst III
b.1964
bass
and drummer Yoron Israel
Yoron Israel
Yoron Israel

drums
are on-hand for two of Ellington's most recognizable ballads. "In A Sentimental Mood" is underscored by some slow-dancing toms, along with added percussive touches from Munyoungo Jackson, while "Sophisticated Lady" slowly saunters along in classy/classic fashion, with Brown's glistening piano work a treat on both tracks.

In other places, Felton prefers the clarity that comes with a single accompanist, as on the jaunty bass-vocal performance of "In A Mellow Tone" and the brighter-than-usual take on Strayhorn's "Lush Life"—which pairs her up with the great Cyrus Chestnut
Cyrus Chestnut
Cyrus Chestnut
b.1963
piano
. When the album briefly detours from the secular to the sacred, on "Come Sunday," the pianist proves to be the perfect foil for Felton's expressions.

Horn players have their place here, too. Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
Jeff Clayton
b.1954
saxophone
adds a jumping alto solo on "Perdido," and he's joined by trumpeter Nolan Shaheed on "Duke's Place (C Jam Blues)." Tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts
Ernie Watts
Ernie Watts
b.1945
reeds
and trumpeter Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
Wallace Roney
b.1960
trumpet
fly atop a thick percussive stew on "Caravan," and both men get some space to solo. Roney returns, mute in horn, for a contemporary, R&B-tinged "Take The A Train" and a slow "I Got It Bad." Even harp has its place here, with Carol Robbins adding some gorgeous touches on "Prelude To Kiss."

Though it's easy to focus on the accompanists, Felton usually serves as the focal point and she's never short of mesmerizing. Superb intonation and phrasing, strong scatting skills and an easy mixture of straight-up jazz, R&B and gospel make for a winning combination. Come Sunday: The Music Of Duke Ellington is Grade A jazz for any day of the week.

Track Listing: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing; Caravan; In A Sentimental Mood; In A Mellow Tone; Lush Life; Perdido; Come Sunday; Take The A Train; I Got It Bad; Sophisticated Lady; I'm Beginning To See The Light; Duke's Place (C Jam Blues); Prelude To A Kiss.

Personnel: Cynthia Felton: vocals; Patrice Rushen: piano (1, 8, 12, 13); Cyrus Chestnut: piano (2, 5, 7); Donald Brown: piano (3, 6, 9, 10); John Beasley: piano (11); Tony Dumas: bass (1, 8, 12, 13); Robert Hurst: bass (2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10); Ryan Cross: bass (4); John B. Williams: bass (11); Terry Lynn Carrington; drums (1, 8, 12, 13); Jeff Tain Watts: drums (2, 7); Yoron Israel: drums (3, 6, 9, 10); Lorca Hart: drums (11); Ronald Muldrow: guitar (3, 6, 11); Wallace Roney: trumpet (2, 8, 9); Nolan Saheed: trumpet (12); Ernie Watts: tenor saxophone (2, 11); Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone (6, 9, 12); Munyoungo Jackson: percussion (2, 3, 8); Carol Robbins: harp (13).

Record Label: Self Produced

Style: Vocal


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