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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Intimate Ellington:
Ballads and Blues

Criss Cross Jazz 1353



1. Pie Eye's Blues
2. Jeep's Blues
3. I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good
4. Creole Love Call
5. Stevie
6. The Intimacy Of The Blues
7. Lotus Blossom
8. Something Sexual
9. Sophisticated Lady
10. Caravan

Wycliffe Gordon - Trombone, trumpet, soprano trombone, vocals
Adrian Cunningham - Tenor sax, soprano sax, clarinet
Zach Brock - Violin
Aaron Diehl - Piano
Yasushi Nakamura - Bass
Alvin Atkinson - Drums
Dee Daniels - Vocals

As a member of the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Wycliffe Gordon played alongside Ellingtonian trombonists like Britt Woodman and Buster Cooper, so he learnt some of Ellington's tricks of the trade. But in this album he puts his own slant on ten Ellington numbers and, being Wycliffe Gordon, his versions sometimes have a humorous air to them.

In fact it is sometimes hard to tell if he is being serious, particularly as he can make all sorts of unusual sounds emerge from the trombone. Thus he plays Sophisticated Lady fairly straight and with sincere feeling, but Stevie includes some weird trombone effects. Wycliffe's growls and flutters conjure up memories of the playing by trumpeter Bubber Miley using a plunger mute in the early Ellington band, so they are surprisingly appropriate. On Caravan, Wycliffe makes his instrument sound like a didgeridoo, or is he really playing one?

Other Ducal echoes are provided by Zach Brock, whose adventurous violin sometimes sounds like Ray Nance playing with the Ellington orchestra. Reedman Adrian Cunningham and pianist Aaron Diehl also add very individual voices to this album. Adrian's clarinet is heard to advantage on such tracks as Billy Strayhorn's The Intimacy of the Blues, and Aaron supplies a skittish solo to Sophisticated Lady. The latter's piano solo in Caravan contains an outlandish quote.

Other highlights include the opener, Pie Eye's Blues, which Duke Ellington first recorded in 1959 and which has a shuffle rhythm that, as Wycliffe says, starts the session off with a good feeling. I Got It Bad is prefaced by the seldom-heard verse, sung by Dee Daniels. Dee duets with Wycliffe in another rare lyric that was written by Lorraine Feather for Creole Love Call. Wycliffe's vocals have echoes of Clark Terry's mock blues. Something Sexual is probably a misprint for Something Saxual, first recorded by the Duke in 1957 and also known as "Dual Highway".

I can thoroughly recommend this CD, as the musicians are all excellent and the choice of tunes judiciously mixes familiar items with rarer numbers. There is an air of relaxed good humour throughout the album.

Tony Augarde

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