- Warm Valley
- Doin´ the Voom Voom
- How Long Has This Been Going On?
- Jeepers Creepers
- The Folks Who Live on the Hill
- You've Got to be Modernistic
- Shades of Jade
- Blue Because of You
- Poor Loulie Jean
- The Very Thought of You
- Embraceable You
- Saturday Night Function
- Salut d'Amour
Duke Heitger - Trumpet
Bernd Lhotzky - Piano
Duke Heitger here stakes a claim to be the natural successor to the late Ruby Braff. Even though Heitger plays the trumpet (unlike cornetist Braff), he sounds remarkably like Ruby, coaxing a sweet, smooth sound from his trumpet which almost makes it the equivalent of a cornet. And, accompanied as he is here by pianist Bernd Lhotzky, he reminds us throughout this CD of those classic duets between Ruby Braff and Ellis Larkins. Tracks like Jeepers Creepers and How Long Has This Been Going On? might be out-takes from the Braff-Larkins recordings.
Despite his Germanic-sounding surname, Duke Heitger was born in Toledo, Ohio, and has lived in New Orleans since 1991. Bernd Lhotzky is Germanic: he comes from Bavaria, where this CD was recorded last year at the concert hall in Oberhaching. The sound quality is bright and clear.
Lhotzky is often described as a "stride pianist" and he can definitely play in the stride style. Yet so-called stride pianists like James P. Johnson and Fats Waller did more than just setting a rhythm with a strong, striding left hand. They often played complex tunes with adventurous chords and highly decorative right-hand runs - and so does Bernd Lhotzky. These qualities are most noticeable in his two solo performances: You've Got to be Modernistic (a James P. Johnson composition with plenty of twists and turns) and Embraceable You, where Bernd plays the little-known verse before decorating the melody with exquisite ornamentation.
As for Duke Heitger, he plays the trumpet in such a mellow way as to avoid piercing the listener's ears. And the choice of tunes displays a commendable eclecticism: from the opening Fascination (another multi-faceted James P. Johnson tune) to the final, surprising performance of Elgar's Salut d'Amour (which is taken at rather too fast a tempo to allow the necessary legato). The album contains quite a few jazz standards, including three Gershwin songs (Liza has its rare verse as well as some fine Harmon-muted trumpet from Duke). There are also rarities, like Toots Mondello's poignant Shades of Jade and Willard Robinson's Poor Loulie Jean, in which Heitger and Lhotzky eloquently convey sadness.
The duettists also play several Duke Ellington numbers. On the title-track, Duke's muted trumpet evokes Bubber Miley, the trumpeter who co-wrote the piece with Duke Ellington. Bubber's trumpet growl is also heard on Saturday Night Function. Here and throughout the album, Heitger and Lhotzky work together impeccably, and the recording captures them with precision and presence. Highly recommended.