André Previn’s piano brings us theme and variations on songs associated with composer Duke Ellington. Bassist David Finck provides subtle accompaniment and lyrical interludes.
The pieces themselves are like old friends. And here they’re treated with respect. So sit down, my friends, and tell me how you’ve been lately.
The titles from Ellington’s blues-based songs represent lyrics by themselves. The ideas live through those melodies. "I got it bad." "Do nothin’ till you hear from me." "It don’t mean a thing."
And Billy Strayhorn’s melodies poke at your psyche. "Isfahan," "Chelsea Bridge," and the bouncier "Take the ‘A’ Train" lay out the melody as if you’re hearing it at your high school class reunion. Is that gray hair I see? Each one has mellowed with age. A distinctive new beauty comes with this maturity.
Previn includes Ellington’s loping "Serenade to Sweden" with natural and impressionistic landscape images. His rubato, solo piano offering of "Come Sunday" resonates beautifully on the Bösendorfer "Imperial" grand piano. The pianist’s treatment of "Things Ain’t What They Used To Be" prances with a quirky step. Previn’s choice in using a different formula for this standard brings excitement to the forum. A combination of lush ballads and lyrical airs honors the Ellington songbook conclusively, as two sensitive artists portray the tunes with deep respect.