For his third album, Steve Hancoff turns his attention to the music of Duke Ellington, not only for the elevated value of Ellington's compositions but for its application to the guitar. This album is as much an instructional tool as it is a jazz album. The 24-page, well-written booklet explains in detail the guitar techniques Hancoff and how those techniques are applied to each of the 16 Ellington tunes on this CD. For a guitarist or afficionado, the booklet alone is worth the price of the CD.
Hancoff employs what he calls the fingerstyling manner of playing the guitar. He plucks rather than strums as do most classical guitarists. His playing also recalls Lenny Breau. Hancoff manages to avoid the clinks and clunks often heard on acoustic guitar solos, even from the best of players. In addition to his extraordinary skill with the instrument, that he uses steel rather than nylon strings is probably a major factor in getting his clean, resonant sound.
To his credit, Hancoff in no way limits the play list to well known Ellington compositions. To the contrary, the program favors lesser performed Ellington works. "Morning Glory", which Ellington wrote with Rex Stewart, was one of three songs Ellington first recorded with his great 1940 band under his new contract with RCA Victor. Hancoff also performs "Dusk", one of those masterful Ellington short tone poems. "After All" was one of the early contributions Billy Strayhorn made to the Ellington book. Whether they be the more famous Ellington tunes or the less known ones, they all get respectful and loving attention from Mr. Hancoff. His version of "Day Dream" is simply outstanding. This album is recommended for guitar student and jazz lover alike.
Hancoff has prepared Acoustic Masters: Duke Ellington for Fingerstyle Guitar now available from Warner Brothers Publications. Visit Steve at his web page at www.stevehancoff.com.
Tracks:Drop Me Off in Harlem; Misty Morning; Day Dream; Move Over; Lament for a Lost Love; Awful Sad; Mississippi Moan; Come Sunday; Morning Glory; Rent Party Blues; Beautiful Romance; Dusk; After All; Have a Heart; Blues of the Vagabond; Reflections in D