Saturday, August 25, 2012

William Parker Orchestra with Special Guest Kidd Jordan – Essence of Ellington (AUM Fidelity, 2012)

In his introduction to this program, recorded live in Milan, William Parker speaks glowingly of the impact the music of Duke Ellington had on him, going back to dancing around the room as a child while his father played the classic Ellington at Newport album. This fascinating large ensemble recording mixes classic Ellington compositions with Parker’s own to superior effect. The opening song is a Parker original, “Portrait of Louisiana,” dedicated to the New Orleans teacher and musician Clyde Kerr. Louisiana native tenor saxophonist Kidd Jordan is featured on this performance with an excellent solo that is rough yet heartwarming. The vocals and spoken word of Ernie Odoom is the centerpiece of the medley “Essence of Sophisticated Lady” (an original) and the Ellington classic “Sophisticated Lady.” Odoom is reminiscent of a swing era singer with a strong clear voice that soars with the band behind him, but also acts a narrator to the drama of a lady’s night on the town to see the big bands. “Take the Coltrane” puts things into overdrive with an extraordinary instrumental performance that takes the big band sound into the post modern era with excellent solos by Sabir Mateen and Kidd Jordan. Perhaps the most impressive solo on the album comes from alto saxophonist Darius Jones, who takes the ballad “In a Sentimental Mood” and simply makes it his own. His sound is caustic but emotional and is really breathtaking in its depth and scope. The medley “Take the A Train/Ebony Interlude” comes out swinging with the familiar fanfare melody, before launching into an exciting trumpet duet between Roy Campbell and Matt Lavelle, and a well deserved solo feature for Sabir Mateen. Much like “In a Sentimental Mood,” “Caravan” shines the spotlight in an alto saxophonist, in this case Rob Brown. Brown shines through a beautifully constructed solo, before the full band comes back in to highlight Parker and pianist Dave Burrell. The band’s encore of the original composition “The Essence of Ellington” brings things back full circle with a spotlight for Kidd Jordan as they distill their love of Ellington’s music and their commitment to internalizing the music and then making their own unique statement. Essence of Ellington / Live in Milano -

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