Exaggeratedly characterized in the liner notes as being "considered the only true tribute" to Duke Ellington, this cd brings together a wide variety of musical performers to tip their hat to the master. One of the so-called "legendary producers" (more puffery) of the album is Dwayne Wiggins who is active in the Hip Hop culture. If that doesn't make jazz fans in general and Ellington lovers in particular have heart palpitations, you are in incredibly good shape.
In spite of trepidations from reading the liner notes, the outcome of this session isn't all that bad. All the music isn't Ellington's. There are a couple of compositions by George Duke, including the title tune. But it's the performers who make or break this album and it is about 70 -30 in favor of make. There are representative artists from jazz, R & B and rock all taking turns to offer interpretations of Ellington. The smooth voice of long time soulful singer, Jerry Butler, makes a nice contribution on "Swing at the Cotton Club" and the soulful, R&B inflected voices of Otis Clay and Delya Chandler do a heart wrenching, gospel like "Come Sunday". This duo also does a swinging "I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues" making these two duets among the best tracks on the CD. On the not so good side is the handling of "It Don't Mean a Thing (if It Ain't Got That Swing)". Here R & B, Hip Hop and, yes, Rap are all mixed together based on the claim that this is the way that Ellington would play his music if he were alive today. Right. If nothing else, it shows that Ellington's music can withstand just about any assault. Most of the backing comes from an army of instrumentalists, some of whom are recognizable, excellent section players. One of whom, veteran trumpet player Snooky Young, gives with inspired solo on "Smokin'".
These "modern" interpretations of Ellington's music may well serve an important purpose, With the crossover approach, it may get the attention of a younger crowd and expose them to Ellington's music.
Track Listing: All the Way Cool; Goin' Home; I Ain't Got Nothing But the Blues; Ellington Medley: Day Dream, I Didn't Know about You, Prelude to a Kiss; The Duke; Come Sunday; Swinging at the Cotton Club; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Smokin'; Bring that Duke; It Don't mean a Thing (if It Ain't Got That Swing); All the Way Cool
Personnel: Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau, Take 6, Otis Clay, Delya Chandler, Diane Reeves, Jeffrey Osborne, Grady Tate, Rachelle Ferrell, Jerry Butler, The Dells, Nancy Wilson, Kenny Lattimore, Sam Most, Ernie Andrews, Barbara Morrison, Tashina Daniels, Guru - Vocals; Gregory Hines - Tap; Jonathan Butler - Vocals/Guitar; Everette Harp, Gary A. Bias - Alto Sax; Andrew Goodrich, Aaron Horne - Alto Sax/Clarinet; Jeff Clayton - Alto Sax/Flute; Kirk Whalum - Tenor Sax; Gene Barge, Bryon Bowie, C. Terry Harrington, Daniel Higgins - Tenor Sax/Clarinet; Mawata Bowden - Baritone Sax/Bass Clarinet; Jack Nimitz - Baritone Sax; Larry Bowden, Kenneth Anderson, Marvin Davis, Burgess Gardner, Marcus Printup, Snookie Young - Trumpet; Rick Baptist, Omar Brashear, George Graham, Michael Stewart - Trumpet/Flugelhorn; Raymond Thomas, Samuel Walton, Tillman Buggs, George Bohanon, Bruce Fowler - Trombone; Willie Woods, Michael Spears - Bass Trombone; Willie Pickens, Sandy Stein - Piano; George Duke, Thomas Cryer - Keyboards; William Yancy, Christian McBride, Larry Kimpel - Bass; Leon Joyce Jr., Ndugu Chancelor Kasnif, Brian Collier - Drums; Myron Glasper - Drum Programming; Gerald Sims, Paul Jackson, Jr. - Guitar; Bashiri Johnson, Lenny Castro - Percussion; Phil Perry, Micoa Thames, Terri Boston, Carla McElroy, Greg McElroy - background vocals