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Dial & Oatts/Rich DeRosa/The WDR Big Band: Rediscovered Ellington

James Nadal By

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After sitting on his archival collection of rare Duke Ellington music for close to forty years, pianist Garry Dial decided it was time the music was heard. Connecting with his musical partner, and prominent reedman Dick Oatts, they contacted WDR Big Band conductor and arranger Rich DeRosa, and the Rediscovered Ellington project, was launched.

Traveling to the WDR home base of Cologne, Germany, where DeRosa was awaiting, the three of them remodeled the music into a cohesive presentation that would do justice to the composer and his legacy. Some of the songs are obscure, never performed, culled from the Ellington family collection, so they had to be reimagined, while respecting their original essence. Others appeared on recordings spanning from the 1940's to the 1960's, and were given renewed arrangements.

As was the custom with Ellington's composing style of writing with the individual soloist in mind, these interpretations have followed that same approach. Obviously, Dial is in the piano chair, Oatts taking care of the alto sax parts, playing in reverence to Johnny Hodges, who carried that role in the Ellington orchestra for years. They open with the mid-tempo swinger "Hey Baby," which appeared on a 1946 record, and was recreated with vocals for Rosemary Clooney in 1956, on the Blue Rose album. Oatts steps right up to the alto solo, followed by WDR tenor man Paul Heller, and their altoist Johan Horlen. "Let the Zoomer Drool," is from a 1945 live date, and has a rolling blues interchange between piano and the band. The classical side of Ellington comes out on "I Like Singing," an engaging ballad with dominant orchestral qualities featuring Dial and Oatts. One of the rarities in the mix is "Just A Gentle Word From You," a straight-ahead piece that has Oatts switching to flute, and Ludwig Nuss taking a trombone spot.

Another unrecorded jewel is "Introspection," that despite its title, is an upbeat number that spotlights trombonist Andy Hunter, and trumpeter Ruud Breuls. "Kiki," is a master class on crafting the perfect sound for a big band, while keeping the heat on high. This track might be the standout tune on the record with generous doses of improvisations coming from altoist Karolina Strassmayer, trumpeter John Marshall, Jens Neufang on baritone sax, and John Goldsby on bass, the whole band blowing as one. Moving up to 1965 in the catalog, the ballad "Love Came," is introduced by the melancholic trumpet of Andy Haderer, gliding it into a tranquil extension. The odd piece in the lineup, which contrasts with Ellington's body of work is "KCOR," thought to come from his later period, but reworked with dynamic brilliance.

Illustrating the mystical relationship that Dial and Oatts have with Ellington and Hodges, "I Must Be Mad," is performed in hushed tones as a fitting farewell to the music, and in honor of their enduring contribution to jazz history. The Duke would certainly approve.

Track Listing: Hey, Baby; Let The Zoomers Drool, I Like Singing; Just A Gentle Word From You Will Do; Introspection; Kiki; Love Came; KCOR; I Must Be Mad.

Personnel: Garry Dial: piano, arranger; Dick Oatts: soprano sax, alto sax, flute, arranger; Rich DeRosa: conductor, arranger, big band orchestrations; Johan Horlen: alto sax, flute, clarinet; Karolina Strassmayer: alto sax, flute; Olivier Peters: tenor sax, clarinet; Paul Heller: tenor sax, clarinet; Jens Neufang: bari sax, bass sax, bass clarinet; Andy Haderer: lead trumpet; Wim Both: alt lead trumpet; Rob Bruynen: trumpet; Ruud Breuls: trumpet; John Marshall: trumpet; Ludwig Nuss: lead trombone; Shannon Barnett: trombone; Andy Hunter: trombone; Mattis Cederberg: bass trombone, tuba; John Goldsby: bass; Hans Dekker: drums.

Title: Rediscovered Ellington | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Zoho Music

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