Mark Lockheart: Ellington in Anticipation (2012)

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Mark Lockheart: Ellington  in Anticipation
Ellington in Anticipation isn't Mark Lockheart's first album to employ an expanded lineup; the Polar Bear
Polar Bear
Polar Bear

band/orchestra
/Blue Touch Paper
Blue Touch Paper
Blue Touch Paper

band/orchestra
saxophonist collaborated with Germany's WDR Big Band on 2010's Days Like These (Fuzzy Moon) and first cut his teeth in Loose Tubes, the now-legendary large UK collective of then-up-and-comers that included pianist Django Bates
Django Bates
Django Bates
b.1960
piano
, saxophonist Iain Ballamy
Iain Ballamy
Iain Ballamy
b.1964
sax, tenor
and guitarist John Parricelli, amongst other notables. But Ellington in Anticipation—whose septet's complexion is defined by the incorporation of violin alongside a three-horn frontline—is Lockheart's first to pay tribute to another composer, through imaginative rearrangements of music by and/or associated with Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
, along with original material clearly inspired by the great pianist/composer.

In that respect, Ellington in Anticipation is not unlike trumpeter Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
Dave Douglas
b.1963
trumpet
' string of tributes including trumpeter Booker Little
Booker Little
Booker Little
1938 - 1961
trumpet
on In Our Lifetime (Arabesque, 1995) and saxophonist Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
with Stargazer (Arabesque, 1996), but there the comparison ends. Lockheart's own voice, approach, and acumen as both a performer and composer have grown significantly since the Loose Tubes years on albums including Moving Air (Basho, 2005) and In Deep (Edition, 2006).

Lockheart's group clearly appreciates the fine balance between reverent respect and respectful irreverence in tackling near-iconic material like "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." Re-harmonized, to be sure, Lockheart's arrangement also turns the tune into ambling ¾-time, comfortably moving from near-chamber ambiance—its memorable melody passed¸ tag team-like, from the rich blend of Lockheart, reed multi-instrumentalist James Allsopp (here solely on clarinet) and saxophonist/flautist Finn Peters to violinist Emma Smith in pizzicato unison with Liam Noble's prepared piano—to a more open solo section that, in addition to featuring Lockheart, gives bassist/Polar Bear cohort Tom Herbert an early opportunity to shine. It does, indeed, swing, but in a different, more modernistic fashion.

Lockheart's "My Caravan" even more significantly re-imagines Juan Tizol's often-covered "Caravan," its familiar theme only emerging in the final minute of a tune slowly building from drummer/Polar Bear partner Sebastian Rochford's hand-played foundation, over which Noble and the horns improvise freely, gradually coalescing around Lockheart's complex contrapuntal writing for further impressive soloing, all bolstered by Noble's blocky accompaniment.

A brooding tone poem, "Come Sunday" starts as a trio with Lockheart, Herbert, and Rochford, whose dark cymbal washes and mallet-driven toms are more about texture than time. Time does, however, ultimately emerge, as Rochford's gentle rim shot drives a slowly building second section where saxophones, clarinet and flute orbit thematically around each other as Noble's simple figure and Herbert's deep arco provide yet another foundation.

Whether rendering Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
1915 - 1967
piano
's signature "Take the A Train" more episodic and expansive, or honing in with needle-like precision on the softly driven yet visceral and gradually intensifying take on Ellington's "Creole Love Call," Ellington in Anticipation proves that there's still plenty of life in material now dating back as much as 80 years. Lockheart and his septet deliver a thoroughly contemporary tribute that focuses the spotlight on a composer whose historical importance is never questioned, but whose music is often considered dated by younger generations. With Ellington in Anticipation, the Duke has rarely sounded so young...or relevant.

Track Listing: It Don't Mean a Think (If It Ain't Got That Swing); My Caravan; Come Sunday; Jungle Lady; Take the A Train; Azure; Uptown; Creole Call Love; Beautiful Man; Mood Indigo; Indian Summer.

Personnel: Mark Lockheart: tenor saxophone; Finn Peters: alto saxophone and flute; James Allsopp: clarinets; Emma Smith: violin; Liam Noble: piano; Tom Herbert: bass; Sebastian Rochford: drums.

Record Label: Subtone Records (uk)

Style: Modern Jazz


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