Duke Ellington: Take the 'A' Train (1963)
Take the 'A' Train (1963)
Duke Ellington (piano)
Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session (Wounded Bird Records)
Svend Asmussen (viola), Ernie Shepard (bass), Sam Woodyard (percussion).
Composed by Bill Strayhorn.
Recorded: Paris, February 22, 1963
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
This track, like its even better companion from the same album, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," gives us fascinatingly different sound, texture, feel, approach and style on a classic Ellington tune because of the rather unique mix of instruments and musicians: Duke on piano, masterfully playing in a way that works well with the other musicians and instruments, as usual; French violinist Stéphane Grappelli, who teamed with legendary gypsy guitarist Django Reinhardt for historic recordings in the '30s; Ellingtonian multi-instrumentalist Ray Nance on violin; Svend Asmussen on viola; plus bassist and drummer.
With sustained hi-hat work providing perfect background texture, Ellington plays a stylish, characteristic intro that offers tantalizing hints of the main musical theme and sets the scene for the main course. That begins with Grappelli's striking entry, with his violin slicing through the musical air like a hot knife through butter, playing interesting, vivacious, creative variations on the theme. After a couple of full choruses, Ray Nance's violin, with a slightly darker tone, takes off from Grappelli's lines and plays some jazzy variations. An interesting bass interlude is next, with Shepard doing some cool talk-singing/scat (and sounding a bit like Dizzy Gillespie) in unison with his basslines. Grappelli returns for a beautiful final rendition of the theme. This is a unique and marvelous version of the Ellington theme song.
Reviewer: Dean Alger