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Thankful for PBS. The Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra is the latest group to capitalize on the trend of bands recording a special for the small screen and then releasing a soundtrack. This accounts for my only quibble: that is there is so little of this music. Say what one may about Wynton Marsalis, he has an unmatched understanding and respect for Edward Kennedy Ellington and this disc is Marsalis’ open letter to the Duke.
The Trend... in many discs addressing Ellington’s music is not to concentrate on the standard fare. All on this disc that could be considered such are “Cottontail”, “C Jam Blues”, “Black and Tan Fantasy”, and “Mood Indigo”. The liner notes are very good in providing the listening the solo order ( for those who did not drink up the PBS Special Swingin’ with Duke ). The surprises are “Happy Go Lucky Local”, “Multi Colored Blue”, and “Bli Blip” the latter two sung by Milt Grayson and Dianne Reeves respectively.
The Performance. This disc is what you would expect: a seminar in Duke Ellington’s music with Maestro Marsalis manning the helm. The performance is crisp yet loose. Marsalis allows all soloists much room and they take advantage of it. If there is one complaint it is the overuse of the plunger mute on both trombones and trumpets. A little more judicious use of this technique (though the practitioners here are masters) would have made this very good recording excellent. But don’t worry about toilet implements, just buy the disc.
Track Listing: Happy Go Lucky Local; Main Stem; C Jam Blues, Multi-colored Rose; Chinoiserie; Black and Tan Fantasy; Cottontail; Mood Indigo; Bli Blip; Harlem Air Shaft; Portrait of Louis Armstrong (Total Playing Time 49:23).
Personnel: Wynton Marsalis: Trumpet and Director; Wessell Anderson, Ted Nash: Alto Saxophone; Walter Blanding: Tenor Saxophone; Victor Goines: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Wycliffe Gordon, Wayne Goodman, Ronald Westray: Trombones; Joe Temperley: Baritone Saxophone; Seneca Black, Ryan Kisor, Marcus Printup: Trumpets; Cyrus Chestnut: Piano; Rodney Whitaker: Bass; Herlin Riley: Drums.