Centenary. What better opportunity to reconsider European interpretations of Duke Ellington’s music than his 100th birthday. Ellington’s music has woven itself into the fabric of Western Musical Tradition in the same way as Hector Berlioz did. Both men were brilliant orchestrators, arrangers, and finally composers. How appropriate it is for the very fine Danish Radio Big Band (DRBB) to tip its hat to Ellington.
A Little Bit of Duke. The music on this live disc is not the ultra-standard Ellingtonia. A taut “Bojangles” and “Cottontail” populate the early part of this disc that also includes “Rocking in Rhythm” and a very slick “Black and Tan Fantasy—The Mooche” medley. All solos are well chosen and the music superbly arranged by Ray Pitts, Niels Jørgen Steen, Vincent Nilsson, George Riedel, Palle Bolvig, and Ernie Wilkins. Recorded live in November 1994 at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse, the band sizzles through diamond-hard charts with a laser scalpel precision.
What’s Missing. I have finally figured out what is missing from Ellington’s music recorded by other big bands. Ellington! And Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Clark Terry, Paul Gonsalves... in short, all of the personalities for whom the maestro wrote. This is not to say that the DRBB is not very fine. It is. But after hearing “Black and Tan Fantasy” on Ellington at Newport Complete, this performance, innovative as it is, sounds synthetic with none of the organic brilliance of the true Ellington Band. No, I am not saying don’t buy this disc. On the contrary, this is a great disc and I readily recommend it. But Boy, how super it is that we have the real thing.
Track Listing: Bojangles; Come Sunday; Cotton Tail; The Governor; Blue Rose; Rocking in Rhythm; Blue Light; Black and Tan Fantasy/The Mooche; A Little Bit of Duke. (Total Playing Time 63:23).
Personnel: Ole Kock Hansen: Conductor; Jesper Thilo: Guest Soloist; Jan Kohlin, Benny Rosenfeld, Palle Bolvig: Trumpets; Vinvent Nilsson, Steen Hansen, Kejld, Ipsen, Giordano Bellincampi, Axel Windfeld: Trombones; Jan zum Vohrde, Michael Hove, Bob Rockwell, Uffe Markussen, Fleming Madsen: Reeds; Nikolaj Bentzon: Piano; Anders Lindvall: Guitar; Thomas Ovesen: Bass; Jonas Johansen: Drums; Ethan Weisgard: Percussion