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Bloom Funkhouser Duo: Exuberant Ellingtonia: Flute & Piano Sessions

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Bloom Funkhouser Duo: Exuberant Ellingtonia: Flute & Piano Sessions
Although the enormous quantity of Duke Ellington tributes recorded over the years is probably far too large to count, those involving flute and piano duos are a much rarer find. So it is a welcome occurrence that flautist Peter H Bloom and pianist John Funkhouser, two prominent veterans of the Boston jazz scene, have recorded just that: a thoughtfully curated, well-played collection of time-tested gems from the Ellington songbook which is perfect in highlighting the musicality and emotional potency of the master's corpus. Both musicians are noted multi-instrumentalists; Funkhouser is also an accomplished bassist, and Bloom's saxophone playing is just as good as his work on the flute, witness his contributions to the Mark Harvey Group's Rite for All Souls (Americas Musicworks, 2020) as evidence. But here Bloom's incisive flute, conjoined with Funkhouser's jaunty, swinging piano make for a fine partnership, one which brings some serious spark to these tunes.

The players have a shared association with the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra, an ensemble which got its start in the early '70s and has been well-documented since then; the group's Faces of Souls (Leo Records, 2020) is another recent offering. And as that band's dedication to Ellington's music is one of its trademarks, it is no surprise that Bloom and Funkhouser are supremely capable of tackling this repertoire. With fourteen pieces, each coming in at a brisk two to four-minute length, the emphasis is indeed on the music, with no time for dawdling or meandering. There are no surprises on offer, though: everything from "Rockin' in Rhythm," the album's spirited opener, through to "Jump for Joy" at its conclusion are pieces every Ellington fan will know well. It is fortunate, then, that the material is given such care and loving attention by these players.

Whether on the upbeat numbers like "Take the 'A' Train" and "Cottontail" or the more pensive "In a Sentimental Mood" or "Prelude to a Kiss," Bloom and Funkhouser bring characteristic style and brio to their renditions. Funkhouser sometimes relies on a steady stride style for his accompaniment (see "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart") and at others he brings an energetic walking bass line to support Bloom's strutting solos, as on "Cottontail." But his delicate sensitivity is just as ideal in limning the subtler dimensions of "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Chelsea Bridge." And while Bloom's ability to find the delightful mystery at the heart of "Isfahan" is exemplary, he does not shy away from taking it up a notch or two on "Take the 'A' Train," where his nimble solo is both stirring and technically impressive.

Mark Harvey, who heads the Aardvark Jazz Orchestra and penned the liner notes for the album, calls the duo's jubilant take on "Jump for Joy" a "hopeful harbinger of the future," and it is a sentiment that easily applies to all of this excellent music, performed here with verve and sophistication.

Track Listing

Rockin’ in Rhythm; In a Sentimental Mood; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; Caravan; Chelsea Bridge; I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart; Cottontail; Prelude to a Kiss; I’m Beginning to See the Light; Sophisticated Lady; Things Ain’t What They Used to Be; Take the ‘A’ Train; Isfahan; Jump for Joy.

Personnel

Peter H Bloom: flute; John Funkhouser: piano.

Album information

Title: Exuberant Ellingtonia: Flute & Piano Sessions | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Americas Musicworks

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