Duke Ellington: Reflections in D

A week before he recorded this introspective solo piano piece, Ellington brought his band into the studio to make "Satin Doll" -- which would prove to be the Duke's last hit single. You couldn't imagine a much starker contrast than between the old "Switch-e-Roony" and this classically oriented composition, with its sensibility of European impressionist concert-hall fare. Ellington left behind stacks of scores and LPs, but not enough solo piano work to suit my tastes. This sophisticated yet heartfelt track gives us a glimpse of an intimate Duke that we rarely got to hear on record. A decade later, in a 1964 interview with Carter Harman, Ellington disagreed vehemently when his interlocutor suggested that Duke didn't write "pretty music." "I like that kind of music," the composer insisted. "I write pretty music, yeah!" He might have cited this track as evidence. To some extent, Ellington anticipates the later work of Bill Evans with his thick and juicy chord voicings hereóno wonder Evans recorded this piece himself 25 years later.

May 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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Bill Evans: Reflections in D

Some of Bill Evans's most stylized late-period work came during his brief tenure with the Warner Bros. label. This impressionistic version of a little-known Duke Ellington composition served as the cornerstone of Evans's 1978 New Conversations. I recall Evans mentioning in an interview that he had not heard Ellington's original 1953 recording at the time he made this track. If so, it is uncanny how much Evans's version evokes the same ambiance and sonic landscape that the composer achieved on his original performance. This recording captures the beauty of Evans's voicings and touch, and is a good starting point for fans from the classical music world who are coming to this artist for the first time -- perhaps after hearing Jean-Yves Thibaudet's concert hall reworkings of his music. If Debussy or Ravel had played jazz, this is how they might have sounded.

May 15, 2008 · 0 comments

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