Dr. Cynthia Felton made quite the splash with her self-produced debut, Afro Blue: The Music of Oscar Brown, Jr.
(2009). In the spirit of well-assembled theme recordings like Karrin Allyson
's Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane
(Concord, 2001) and Todd Bishop
's Pop Art 4 disc, 69 Annee Erotique
, Afro Blue
is a solid look at a master's craft of writing lyrics for jazz pieces.
Felton treads more familiar territory on Come Sunday: The Music of Duke Ellington
, undertaking the project with an embarrassment of supporting artist riches that features Felton in several different format contexts, from bass/voice duet to little big band. In all formats, Felton swings effortlessly, and she comes out swinging on the opening "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing," singing wide-open with no governor. She is joined by pianist Patrice Rushen
, bassist Tony Dumas
, and irrepressible drummer Terri Lyne Carrington
. Felton scats capably, but saves her chops for later.
"Caravan" features studied pianist Cyrus Chestnut
, bassist Robert Hurst III
, and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts
. Watts lays down layers of rhythmic humus, over which the band and Felton stroll barefooted. Wallace Roney
provides beautiful open-bell trumpet, augmented by tenor saxophonist Ernie Watts
. Watts and Hurst take striking solo turns on a Juan Tizol
composition made for rhythm sections. Watts stretches, sharing space with master percussionist Munyoungo Jackson.
Felton is most compelling in the small space of a duo. "In A Mellow Tone" is driven by Ryan Cross' informed bass, the two extending the reductionist language investigated by Lawrence Lebo and Denny Croy on Don't Call Her Larry, Volume 3: American Roots
(On the Air, 2004), into the same sexy stratospheric realm that Ellington always went. Felton and Chestnut share a moment on a most lush "Lush Life," illustrating the artistic soul that was and is Billy Strayhorn
There is not a throw-away song on this collection; durable is the Ellington songbook, as evidenced here and on John Pizzarelli
's recent Rockin' in Rhythm: A Tribute to Duke Ellington
(Telarc, 2010). Felton emerges fully formed with very specific ideas about jazz; she is on a roll, and it will be fun to see what she has in store next.
Track Listing: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing; Caravan; In A
Mood; In A Mellow Tone; Lush Life; Perdido; Come Sunday; Take The A
Train; I Got It Bad; Sophisticated Lady; I'm Beginning To See The Light;
Duke's Place (C Jam Blues); Prelude To A Kiss.
Personnel: Cynthia Felton: vocals; Patrice Rushen: piano (1, 8, 12, 13); Cyrus
Chestnut: piano ( 2, 5, 7); Donald Brown: piano (3, 6, 9, 10); John
Beasley: piano (11); Tony Dumas: bass (1, 8, 12, 13); Robert Hurst:
bass (2, 3, 6, 7, 9, 10); Ryan Cross: bass (4); John B. Williams: bass
(11); Terry Lynn Carrington; drums (1, 8, 12, 13); Jeff Tain Watts:
drums (2, 7); Yoron Israel: drums (3, 6, 9, 10); Lorca Hart: drums
(11); Ronald Muldrow: guitar (3, 6, 11); Wallace Roney: trumpet (2, 8,
9); Nolan Saheed: trumpet (12); Ernie Watts: tenor saxophone (2, 11);
Jeff Clayton: alto saxophone (6, 9, 12); Munyoungo Jackson: percussion
(2, 3, 8); Carol Robbins: harp (13).
Title: Come Sunday: The Music of Duke Ellington
| Year Released: 2010
| Record Label: Self Produced