Despite the successes of Benny Goodman, Andre Previn and most recently, Keith Jarrett and Brad Melhdau,I get nervous when jazz and classical musicians get together because they come from different bases. Jazz is swing, blues and improvisation. Classics is sticking to the written score. Classical conductors interpret Beethoven's Symphony No. 5, not improvise above its melody line. English conductor and the Birmingham Symphony put the concern to rest as they join with top rank jazz artists for more than an hour of dazzling performances of a cross section of Duke Ellington's music.
The album has both instrumentals and vocals. Of the former, several standout out, There's Clark Terry and Regina Carter on "That Doo-Wah-Thing", variations on "It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing", with the members of the symphony swinging like mad. Bet they haven't that much fun in years. Terry, Bobby Watson, Joshua Redman. Joe Lovano and Regina Carter blast away on Ellington's signature, "Take the "A" Train". Individual members of the Symphony get a chance to show off as solists on a couple of cuts. John Barclay and Simon Gardner trumpets capture the blues on "Harlem".
But the gems of this album are the tracks when Lena Horne shows up. Turning back the clock, she engages the listener with as poignant "Something to Live" as you'll ever likely to hear with the Lovano tenor paying due respect to this doyen of song. Then she turns up the burners for "Maybe" supported by Watson's alto sax and an all star rhythm section of Geri Allen, Lewis Nash and Peter Washington. This rhythm section is on most tracks performing the seemingly impossible task of maintaining the jazz beat for each soloist without getting overwhelmed by the symphony. They pull it off without a hitch.
This is a fine album of Ellington/Billy Strayhorn music where the classical and jazz artist come together as one to honor the great composer. Recommended.
Track Listing: Take the "A" Train; You're the One; Sophisticated Lady; Harlem; Isfahan; Ad Lip on Nippon; That Doo-Wah Thing; Something to Live For; Come Sunday; Solitude in Transbluency; Maybe; Things Ain't What They Used to Be
Personnel: Clark Terry - Trumpet; Bobby Watson - Alto Sax; Joshua Redman, Joe Lovano - Tenor Sax; Regina Carter - Violin; Geri Allen, Mike Renzi - Piano; Lewis Nash - Drums; Peter Washington - Bass; Lena Horne - Vocals; The Birmingham Symphony Orch., Simon Rattle - Conductor
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone
Jazz and the blues--because together this musical brother and sister speak from our nation's days of the current cultural affairs and the authenticity and truth of a place where the rhythms held the pulse and the drums the heartbeat, representing every step closer the meat on the bone. Feet in the dirt, or barefoot on a stage with sequins--it's soul beats in my chest.
I was first exposed to jazz while others listened to surf music in the '50s and '60s, it was Monk, Miles, Satchmo and Ella, Rosemary Clooney and Julie London followed. Margaret Whiting, Les McCann, Willie Bobo, Andy Simpkins, Snooky Young, Bill Basie and Helen Humes. The first time I heard Topsy, Take 2, I about passed out at the age of ten.
I've hung with Les McCann who more than 30 years after our first meeting became my duet partner on my CD, Don't Go To Strangers. Karen Hernandez from the start, Jack Le Compte on drums, Lou Shoch on bass, Steve Rawlins as my arranger and pianist, Grant Geissman - guitar genius, Nolan Shaheed, Richard Simon, and more. The big boys. My Red Hot Papas. The best show I ever attended was...
I met Helen Humes first back in 1981 and helped turn one Playboy Jazz Festival night into her tribute, bring the Basie Band to stage, her joy boys. Before she took the stage for the last time to sing, If I could Be With You One Hour Tonight thousands of copies of the newspaper I wrote for carried her story. It was kismet, her being held by Joe Williams backstage. Soon in my life were the great Linda Hopkins who told me I sang the song she wrote better than her, which floored me of course, the energizing Barbara Morrison and the stellar Marilyn Maye who guided me professionally.
My advice to new listeners... let your backbone slip and feel your body stripping back the barriers that prevent us from being one with the music.
Remember none of us are strangers, we just haven't met yet.