Duke Ellington: Passion Flower
Duke Ellington (piano)
Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington (Buddha)
Ray Nance (trumpet), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Jimmy Blanton (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).
Composed by Billy Strayhorn.
Recorded: Hollywood, July 3, 1941
Rating: 90/100 (learn more)
This was the first recording of "Passion Flower," performed by an Ellington small group nominally led by Johnny Hodges. The song was later scored for the full Ellington band and performed a good deal. It illustrates how Duke and his partner in composition, Billy Strayhorn, were by 1941 transcending simple ballads with pieces that were really shortish tone poems—this one written to feature Hodges.
The tune is mellow, atmospheric mood music, with subtle, nuanced playing. Some listeners will probably not be enthused because it doesn't have a distinct, prominently played, easily recognizable theme. Others will find it an interesting sound painting with a subtle passion. My rating is a mix of my general sense of how this composition stands in the works of Ellington & Co. and my own subjective assessment of its caliber. It is not, in truth, among my favorite Ellington pieces, even in the tone poem category; for the latter, I think "Isfahan" is a higher aesthetic accomplishment.
Reviewer: Dean Alger