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Orquesta Libre + Suga Dairo + RONxII: Plays Duke

Eyal Hareuveni By

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Japanese drummer Yashuhiro Yoshigali's Orquesta Libre programs reflected the master musicians eclectic tastes and versatile capabilities—any thing from nuevo-tango, psychedelic hits from the sixties to Burt Bacharach and jazz standards, all performed in playful arrangements. So, dedicating a whole program to some of the most recognizable standards of Duke Ellington, few were popular dance songs, came as no surprise. The Orquesta Libre performed these standards regularly in the last years before recording them.

The 10-piece orchestra is augmented with volatile pianist Suga Dairo and tap dancer RONxII. The arrangements of trombonist Aoki Taisei and bassist Suzuki Masato are faithful to melodic and harmonic devices of Ellington but dress these familiar songs with modern arrangements, in attempt to bring them back to the dance floors.

"Take The A Train" arrangements stress its driving rhythmic core, beginning with a gentle tap dance and percussive interplay of Yoshigaki on the drums, vibe player Takara Kumiko and percussionist Okabe Yoichi. Then the Orquesta joins, elaborates passionately on the infectious theme, between virtuoso dance moves of RONxII. "Caravan" is arranged as an Afro-Cuban mysterious dance, beginning with a heavy percussive basis, suggestive muted trombone solo and later fast and energetic solo of Dairo, dueling the horn section and RONxII. "Rockin' In Rhythm" is arranged as a heated, passionate dance, with another powerful solo of Dairo.

But while these arrangements play with the elegant, originals like "Creole Love Call" turns this standard into a burning rhythm n' blues dance with soulful solos of tenor saxophonist Fujiwara Daisuke and trumpeter Watanabe Takao connecting the legacy of Ellington with the soul jazz of Gene Ammons and the funk and soul of the James Brown band and Sly and the Family Stone. Dairo introduction of "African Flower" is inspired from the cinematic soundscapes of Japanese pianist and sound sculptor Ryuichi Sakamoto, emphasizing the evocative atmosphere of this standard. "Money Jangle" (written in that spelling) retains the confrontational, muscular spirit of the legendary summit of Ellington, Charles Mingus and Max Roach on Money Jungle (United artists, 1963).

Trumpeter Takao keeps the early Ellington sound on "The Mooche" with a masterful solo, using the plunger mute, but the Orquesta expands this sound with a brilliant, nuanced slide guitar solo of Shiiya Motomu that adds enigmatic colors to Takao beautiful muted trumpet sound. Similar arrangement is given to "Mood Indigo," faithful to the dreamy melodic theme and the gentle voicings of the trombone of Taisei, the trumpet of Takao, and the clarinet of Shiotani Hiroyuki, but heats the spirit with a distorted guitar solo of Motomu.

Brilliant, inspiring tribute to one of the greatest composers.

Track Listing: Take The A Train; Caravan; Creole Love Call; I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good); African Flower (Petite Fleur Africane); Money Jangle; The Moochee; Rockin' In Rhythm; Mood Indigo.

Personnel: Yoshigaki Yasuhiro: drums; Aoki Taisei: trombone, keyboard, harmonica; Shiotani Hiroyuki: soprano saxophone; clarinet; Fujiwara Daisuke: tenor saxophone; Watanabe Takao: trumpet; Gideon Juckes: tuba; Takara Kumiko: vibraphone; Suzuki Masato: bass; Shiiya Motomu: guitar, steel guitar; Okabe Yoichi: percussion; Suga Dairo: piano; RON×II: tap dance.

Title: Plays Duke | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Glamorous Records

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