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Dan Block: From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington

Edward Blanco By

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Bandleader and accomplished reed man Dan Block is an exponent of traditional and swing jazz, and pays homage to the music of Duke Ellington with From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington. The repertoire's avoidance of the usual Ellington standards and classics makes this a unique project unlike other tributes to the master—there is no "Satin Doll," "Sophisticated Lady," "Caravan," or "Take the A Train"; instead, lesser-known but equally impressive tunes from the '30s through the '70s, with particular focus on the '40s. There are a couple of Billy Strayhorn compositions, with the 1945 opener, "Kissing Bug," arranged to feature a bit of Latin percussion from Renato Thoms.

Known as much for his stylish clarinet play as his tenor saxophone prowess, Block also employs alto saxophone, bass clarinet and basset horn on this date, affirming his notoriety as a multi-reed specialist. Block enlists a host of players for this tribute among them, pianist Mike Kanan, guitarist James Chirillo, vibraphonist Mark Sherman, drummer Brian Grice and bassist Lee Hudson. Block chose several pieces from the '40s, a period he sees as neglected, including the soft, haunting 1947 ballad "New York City Blues," and the brief but perky "Suburbanite," from the same year, here given new life with an up- tempo color.

"All Heart" and "Change My Ways" were two rather obscure Strayhorn ballads from the '50s, and here Block blends them into one nice "Ballad Medley," performing both on clarinet and alto saxophone. "Portrait of Bert Williams" is the disc's only real blues, while "Rocks In My Bed" features a rhythm-based quartet with Chirillo, Hudson and cellist Pat O'Leary. "Mt. Harrissa" is one of the disc's not-to-be-missed pieces—an intriguing version of "Take the 'A' Train," but with a three-tone substitution framed by Sherman's superb vibraphone lines on both ends.

The swing comes shining through on the Jimmy McHugh-inspired "Cotton Club Stomp," a nod to Ellington's tenure at the famed venue, while "Creole Blues" draws its inspiration from Ellington's "Creole Rhapsody," from 1931, developing the main melody as the song's centerpiece. Other uncommon and largely unfamiliar pieces featured anew here are "Old King Dooji," "Morning Glory" and "The Beautiful Indians." Reconnecting the Ellington magic of the past to today's jazz world, From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington is more than just a fine tribute to one of the legends of jazz, it's a spotlight on Ellington's hidden musical wonders brought, back to life through Block's talents and musicianship.

Track Listing: Kissing Bug; New York City Blues; Old King Dooji; Morning Glory; Are You Stickin'?; The Beautiful Indians; Suburbanite; Ballad Medley (All Heart / Change My Ways); Portrait of Bert Williams; Mt Harrissa; Creole Blues; Cotton Club Stomp; Rocks in my Bed; Second Line.

Personnel: Dan Block: clarinet, bass clarinet, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Mike Kanan: piano; Lee Hudson: bass; James Chirillo: guitar; Brian Grice: drums; Mark Sherman: vibes (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Renato Thoms: percussion (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Pat O'Leary: cello (6, 9, 13).

Title: From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Miles High Records

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