"DUKE ELLINGTON LIVE IN '58" DVD JAZZ ICONS
* * * * *
The magnificence of Duke Ellington, musically and sartorially is brought before our very eyes on this, one of a new series of DVDs issued by Jazz Icons.
Duke and many of the stalwart members of his organization for decades are seen and heard performing a 1958 concert in Holland. We are privy to seeing alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton, Sam Woodyard and the entire Duke Ellington orchestra.
His program, as you would expect, is mostly Ellington compositions like, "Sophisticated Lady," "Harlem Air Shaft," "Black and Tan Fantasy" but strangely the tune that captured my spirit was not an Ellington work at all.
"My Funny Valentine" begins with clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton stating the theme with the reed section subdued behind him. Trombonist Quentin Jackson, playing his muted plunger is exquisite with his statement.
Of course Ellington couldn't be allowed off the stage without playing a medley of his best known works such as "Sophisticated Lady," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Do Nothing Til You Hear From Me," "Don't You Know I Care," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Mood Indigo," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "Caravan," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Solitude," and " I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart."
Some would say Ellington saved the best for last as Paul Gonsalves plays umpteen choruses of "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue." It's not too early to think about Christmas gifts for jazz lovers.
"GET HAPPY" EZRA WEISS ROARK
* * * * *
Former New York pianist, leader and arranger Ezra Weiss who used to split time between Portland and the Apple has decided to make Portland his home.
Area jazz fans should reap the benefits from this decision and this new release serves as a swinging introduction to Mr. Weiss, his talents and some of his friends.
My favorite is a haunting ballad, "What I Can Never Say" which features alto saxophonist Antonio Hart with Weiss on piano, bassist Corcoran Holt and drummer Jason Brown. Hart plays the theme softly over and over each time swelling the sound but never deviating from the gentleness of the composition.
Singer Heidi Krenn has a surprisingly light voice with which she delivers "Once Upon a Time." She is unique with her high range. Weiss uses many players in differing combinations. The only constant presence is that of bassist Holt who is heard on each of the ten cuts.
Drummer Billy Hart is on three tracks including "It's You or No One" that allows tenor saxophonist Kelly Roberge some space to exercise his chops.
So, welcome to Portland Ezra and may you enjoy all the success your talents merit. We as an audience will be beneficiaries as long as you live here.
Dick Bogle hosts a weekly jazz radio show 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays on KMHD 89.1 FM. He can be reached at email@example.com.