Thursday, March 24, 2011

Grant Stewart - Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn (Sharp Nine, 2009)

Saxophonist Grant Stewart leads a subtle and swinging tribute to the music of pianists and composers Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn on this solid mainstream jazz recording. While he can only touch the tip of the iceberg of these composers voluminous output, the band hits a few high points along the way. Accompanied by Tardo Hammer on piano, Paul Gill on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums, the group works through a series of compositions from their canonical songbook, beginning with a deeply swinging version of "Raincheck" that moves at a medium-up tempo that suits the band well, with the bass and drums forming a deep pocket for the piano and saxophone to improvise over. The beautiful melody of "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" is particularly poignant, with just the right amount of romanticism included without turning mawkish. "It Don't Mean A Thing" and "The Feeling of Jazz" return us to the bright faster paced realm where the band is able to use these indelible melodies to craft fine improvisations. There is solid meat and potatoes mainstream jazz here, the music of Ellington and Strayhorn has become the lingua franca of the modern mainstream jazz and Stewart and the band use it well to craft an eminently listenable album. Grant Stewart Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington And Billy Strayhorn -

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