Happy Birthday, Maestro Ellington!. A perfect time for Joe Temperley’s Naxos Jazz debut: The 100th birthday of the grand maestro himself, Edward Kennedy Ellington. Temperley was an important figure in the late bands of the Duke having replaced the venerable Harry Carney after his 42 years (the longest of any single Duke band member) 1974. Temperley added the soprano sax to the arsenal of baritone and bass clarinet, two of the important underpinnings to the super Ellington sound. Double Duke finds Temperley in the company of his Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra (LCJO) bandmates. The music they make is in the spirit of Ellington, though on a smaller scale.
The Marsalis Factor. The Music Director of the LCJO is Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis is perhaps the most prominent promoter of the music and philosophy of Duke Ellington. Marsalis has used Ellington’s music in both classes and television specials to provide examples of the different elements of jazz. In his own musical career, Marsalis has used the extended jazz suite pioneered by Ellington with pieces like “Black, Brown, and Beige”. Marsalis recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his extended jazz suite Blood in the Fields. As a teacher, and in the same mentoring vein as Art Blakey and Miles Davis, Marsalis passes his respect, reverence, and philosophy to those musicians who work with him. All of the musicians on this disc have worked with Marsalis at it shows. They exude his work and performance ethic with often greater warmth and personality than Marsalis himself.
Something Old.... Double Duke is a collection of Ellington and Strayhorn tunes with a couple of standards thrown. There are ballads, and a lot of blues. While Temperley is the leader, he almost affords equal time to Wycliff Gordon. Trombonist Gordon uses a plunger mute to transform “Creole Love Call” into a Joe “King” Oliver gut-bucket blues. Gordon plunger talks his way through the Irish ballad war horse “Danny Boy”, giving the song the personality of a funeral parade past Pirate’s Alley. On Billy Strayhorn’s “Raincheck”, he plays a clear and articulate open bell.
Fascinatin’ Rhythm. Temperley does show up and blows and blows. While his tone could not be described as muscular, it is informed and intelligent. His baritone playing is uniformly fine on “Raincheck”, Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism”, and “Try a Little Tenderness”. His bass clarinet really shines on “Creole Love Call.” His playing is smooth and mellow, like a mint julep without the julep. And finally, his soprano is super on “Creole”, and “Black and Tan Fantasy”. Eric Reed turns in fine performances on “Creole” (obviously the disc’s highlight) and “Elsa”. The rhythm section is what one would expect—outstanding”
Double Duke continues Naxos Jazz’s perfect season of record releases. This disc certainly goes to the forefront of Naxos Jazz releases dealing exclusively with standards. The liner notes are written by Ellington biographer and music critic Stanley Dance, who died March 2, 1999. Double Duke is warmly recommended.
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