Duke Ellington: Passion Flower

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.

March 16, 2009 · 0 comments


Pete Christlieb & Bob Cooper: Passion Flower

Duke Ellington’s celebrated alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges set the standard for the performance of Billy Strayhorn’s elegant ballad “Passion Flower.” Here two tenor saxophonists a generation apart, Bob Cooper, who rose to prominence during the so-called cool period of the 1950s, and Pete Christlieb, a big-toned player of more recent vintage, honor the alto master and complement each other in a bright Latin version of the classic.

November 02, 2007 · 0 comments


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