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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, John Eyles, Robert Gibson, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby



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DUKE ELLINGTON

Piano In The Foreground

Columbia Legacy 512920 2

 

 

1

I Can't Get Started

10

Searching

2

Cong-Go

11

Springtime In Africa

3

Body And Soul

12

Lotus Blossom

4

Blues For Jerry

13

All The Things You Are (Take 1)

5

Fontainbleau Forest

14

All The Things You Are (Take 2)

6

Summertime

15

Piano Improvisation No. 2

7

It's Bad To be Forgotten

16

Piano Improvisation No. 3

8

A Hundred Dreams Ago

17

Piano improvisation No. 4

9

So

18

Piano improvisation No. 1

This compilation can be divided into two parts even though the musicians, Duke Elington, piano - Aaron Bell (#1-12) and Jimmy Woode (#13-18), bass - Sam Woodyard, drums remain the same throughout. What is somewhat rare about these recordings is that they feature Ellington as the main soloist. At the time they were recorded in the late 50s and early 60s Ellington was usually more content to oversee the performance of his great orchestra and leave the keyboard duties to Billy Strayhorn. So here we have a treat!

The first dozen tracks are a mix of standards and titles which when first recorded had never been heard before. Track 12, 'Lotus Blossom,' composed by Strayhorn is one of the most moving pieces and Patricia Willard's comments that the track is, 'perhaps Ellington's most eloquent and introspective solo piece, often reflected his mood, almost a benediction' are spot on. The rest of the CD involves a couple of versions of 'All the Things You Are' and four Piano Improvisations.

Two striking pieces are 'Fontainebleau' and 'Forest and Spring In Africa' - a complete diversion from the Ellington's well known trade mark of stride piano as featured on many of the other tracks. Both are classics, culturally inspiring and typical of the innovative style and different genres he so often introduced into his compositions. But however classical a strong melodic line is always present.

The opening bars of 'Blues For Jerry' could be mistaken for a typical Garner intro but there the comparison ends as Duke gradually builds towards a more Monk style that led Bell to say of the piece, 'It's not a blues but it is. It's the blues pattern that everyone listens for. If you don't listen close, you won't get that because he's throwing you off.' 'Cong-Go' is an original and simple head line by Bell and taken up to become the main theme - developed of course in sparkling fashion by the pianist. Of the four 'Improvisations' I preferred No.1 containing nearly ten minutes of fresh improvisation based round an unusual rhythmic style. This is a very interesting CD and it gives a fascinating insight into the massive talent of a great musician and composer.

Jack Ashby



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