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The Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra: The Governor

Jack Bowers By

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Nearly a third of this splendid album by the Danish Radio Jazz Orchestra, recorded in March 1999 at Copenhagen's JazzHouse, is devoted to "The Governor," conductor Niels Jørgen Steen's enterprising centenary salute to Edward Kennedy Ellington on which ensemble and soloists alike (nine in all) masterfully reanimate the enduring Ellington spirit. The other eleven selections were written by Billy Strayhorn (a brief "Take the 'A' Train"), Juan Tizol ("Perdido") or Ellington, either by himself or with Cootie Williams ("Concerto for Cootie"), Johnny Hodges ("Blue Rose") or Barney Bigard and Irving Mills ("Mood Indigo"). Besides composing "The Governor," Steen crafted bright new arrangements of "Perdido," "Concerto for Cootie," "Main Stem," "Bojangles" and "Harlem Air Shaft." Each of them sparkles, as does the DRJO which is so completely immersed in an Ellington mode that the concert could at times be mistaken for one of the Duke's memorable live performances from the '30s, '40s or '50s. Soloists also unveil an Ellington­based persona, especially alto Michael Hove (Johnny Hodges­like on "Prelude to a Kiss"), trumpeter Benny Rosenfeld ("Concerto for Cootie") and flugel Thomas Fryland ("Mood Indigo"). Other standouts include saxophonists Tomas Franck and Uffe Markussen (who doubles on clarinet); trombonists Peter Jensen, Steen Hansen and Vincent Nilsson; trumpeters Jesper Riis and Thomas Kjaergaard; baritone Flemming Madsen, pianist Nikolaj Bentzon and bassist Thomas Ovesen (a bulwark with Bentzon and drummer Jonas Johansen of the orchestra's topnotch rhythm section). Conductor Steen, who worked frequently with Ben Webster during the latter's years in Copenhagen, has played an important role as composer, arranger and conductor in the DRJO's growth almost since its formation in 1964. In "The Governor," his evocative theme is enhanced by brief references to Tizol's "Caravan" and Ellington's score for the film Anatomy of a Murder. The orchestra is superb, as it is elsewhere, with the reeds notably limber and expressive on Frank Foster's driving arrangement of "In a Mellow Tone" and the brass sharp and powerful throughout. A consistently impressive homage to the legendary Duke Ellington and his orchestra.

Track Listing: Take the "A" Train; In a Mellow Tone; Prelude to a Kiss; Main Stem; Concerto for Cootie; Blue Rose; Perdido; The Governor; Bojangles; Second Line; Mood Indigo; Harlem Airshaft (62:50).

Personnel: Niels J

Year Released: 2002 | Record Label: Storyville Records | Style: Big Band


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