Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Duke Ellington - Piano in the Foreground

This CD presents the Duke in a piano trio setting. You might think that this would put the spotlight closer on Ellington, but most of the album is rather low-key, tending to hide Duke's light under a bushel.
Perhaps this reflects Billy Strayhorn's comment about his long-term colleague: "Ellington plays the piano, but his real instrument is the orchestra". Or it may just be that Ellington was here using understatement instead of performing as if he was an extrovert solo pianist. Whatever the reason, the playing on most on this album is fairly subdued, and the recording doesn't help to put much intensity into the performances. It might have helped if Sam Woodyard's drums were more prominent but they are very much in the background. However, Aaron Bell's bass is clearly miked and this turns many tracks into duo performances between piano and double bass.
As expected, the album shows Duke's heritage in the stride tradition very clearly, with a strong left hand often helping the rhythm along. As with his orchestra, Duke's right-hand comments are often brief, with short but percussive phrases, leaving many breathing spaces. He can also play rhapsodically on tunes like his own composition Fontainebleau Forest and Billy Strayhorn's Lotus Blossom, which he caresses with loving care.
Most tracks are Ellingtonian numbers but he also tackles jazz standards like I Can't Get Started and Summertime. The latter is given an experimental treatment, with stuttering bass and drums plus out-of-tempo piano. It is jagged and almost surreal, with a discordant ending. This is possibly the only track where Duke takes daring liberties with the tune. Mostly he stays close to the melody.
These were by no means Duke's first examples of a willingness to show himself in the glaring light of a piano trio or even duo. His duets with bassist Jimmy Blanton in 1940 are famous, and he recorded in trios in 1945 (with Junior Raglin and Sonny Greer) and 1953 (with Wendell Marshall and Butch Ballard). As bonus tracks, this album adds two trio sessions: some of the 1953 recordings and some from 1957 (with Jimmy Woode replacing Aaron Bell as bassist).
These extra tracks seem more animated than those on the original LP. The two versions of All the Things You Are exhibit Ellington's interest in varied chords, although the bowed bass in the second take seems out of sympathy and out of tune. The Piano Improvisations include an economical piece with a marching beat, an easy-going blues (complete with Woodyard offbeats), and a couple of tracks reminiscent of James P. Johnson.
The last three tracks are also exhilarating, including the finger-clicking Dancers in Love, a pensive Prelude to a Kiss, and a bright In a Sentimental Mood. In some ways this album is disappointing because it shows Duke in a rather less stimulating mode than in Piano in the Background. Yet, being an Ellington recording, it is still worth adding to your collection as an insight into the greatest genius of jazz.
Tony Augarde

Source : http://www.musicweb-international.com/jazz/2012/Duke_Ellington_EJC55551.htm

Duke Ellington
Piano in the Foreground


1 I Can't Get Started (Duke, Gershwin)  4:23
2 Cong-go (Ellington, Bell)  4:16
3 Body and Soul (Eyton, Green, Heyman, Sour)  4:48
4 Blues for Jerry (Ellington)  4:38
5 Fontainebleau Forest (Ellington)  2:53
6 Summertime (Gershwin, Gershwin, Heyward)  3:52
7 It's Bad to be Forgotten (Ellington)  3:22
8 A Hundred Dreams Ago (Ellington)  2:26
9 So (Ellington)  4:33
10 Searching (Pleading For Love) (Ellington)  1:49
11 Springtime in Africa (Ellington)  3:46
12 Lotus Blossom (Strayhorn)  3:18
13 All the Things You Are [take 1] (Kern, Hammerstein)  4:00
14 All the Things You Are [take 2] (Kern, Hammerstein)  3:50
15 Piano Improvisation n° 1 (Ellington)  9:46
16 Piano Improvisation n° 2 (Ellington)  3:25
17 Piano Improvisation n° 3 (Ellington)  2:48
18 Piano Improvisation n° 4 (Ellington)  1:51
19 Dancers in Love (Ellington)  1:55
20 Prelude to a Kiss (Ellington, Gordon, Mills)  3:04
21 In a Sentimental Mood (Ellington, Mills, Kurtz)  2:27


[# 1-12]
Duke Ellington - p
Aaron Bell - b
Sam Woodyard - dr
Recorded in Los Angeles ; March 1 & 2, 1961
[# 13-18]
Duke Ellington - p
Jimmy Woode - b
Sam Woodyard - dr
Recorded in New York ; October 10 [# 13 & 14] ; & March 20 [# 15-18], 1957
[# 19-21]
Duke Ellington - p
Wendell Marshall - b
Butch Ballard - dr
Recorded in Los Angeles ; April 13 & 14, 1953


grumpy said...

I had this LP way back in the 60s, don't know what became of it. From what I remember it was an interesting comparison with 'Money Jingle' with Mingus and Roach.

Thanks again, Mel.

greenishthing said...

WHAT????? this exists???? many thanks Mel!!
je sais ce que je vais ecouter ce soir!!!

ita diegues said...

Gracias Melanchthon.

deGallo said...

Thank you for the expanded edition. Very nice!

Angelo said...

Coisa finíssima!!!

Muito obrigado.

MrBill said...

Thank you, sir - I love Ellington's playing, even though he featured himself infrequently.

pedro gamundi said...


fcapeau said...

Many thanks Mel, for this great Classics ! I'll bring it with me, on my desert island ....

Melanchthon said...


John Pickworth said...

Many thanks !

kingpossum said...

Wow, perfect headphone listening for my flight to New York tomorrow. Hearty thanks for the post.

Anonymous said...

Excellent! Many thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

Many many Thanks for this. Cette édition est plus complete que la cd que j'avais.
Mille merci

daniel genovese said...

Thank you.

rev.b said...

Ellington's piano is unique, instantly recognizable, and one of my favorite sounds in this world. Many, MANY thanks!

adakun said...

Gracias Mel

Jazzsoulman said...

Thank You

Kovina Kris said...

Very curious to hear Duke in a trio setting. Thank you!