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Jazz Round Midnight: Ellington/Strayhorn Songbook
Various Artists
Jazz Round Midnight: Ellington/Strayhorn Songbook
Genres: World Music, Jazz, Special Interest, Pop, Broadway & Vocalists
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1


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Surprisingly Good, though slim
Richard LeFebvere | Chicago, Il, USA | 08/25/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Here you'll find the genius of the composition possessed by Duke and Swee' Pea, although not the men themselves. Amazingly, the CD makes you forget this oversight with great selections. While you don't actually HEAR Duke or Billy (one of the jazz world's most tragically underrated composers and pianists) you'll think that you did due to the brillance of their songs and some very "Dukish" performances. Bookending the album with Johnny Hodges groups doesn't hurt--his tone and the Ellington badnmates always knock me out. There's an interesting "Black Butterfly" from 1946, which is notable for being a more obscure tune and and obscure artist, but the same can't be said of Oscar Peterson on "Sophisticated Lady" but Peterson's talent is too incredible to be obscure. Stephane Grapelli is moving on "Sentimental Mood," probably inspired by his early-1960s collaborations with the Ellington band. Former Duke great Ben Webster joins Gerry Mulligan for a inspired "Chelsea Bridge," but this version still isn't as good as the one he cut with Strayhorn accompanying him in the early 1950s. Sonny Criss does a great version of "Day Dream" that'll bring you back to your formica table and martinis of 1963, and Ray Bryant is admirable on a jazzy "Lush Life" although it doesn't quite capture the torment and sadness of Strayhorn's life that inspired it. A real standout is Stan Getz,of all people, on "Blood Count." The song is not for every performer, of course, being Strayhorn's last major work, the story of the IV drip of his blood transfusion while undergoing cancer treatment soon before his death.Getz gives a great performance here, playing wonderfully off the bass's "drip-drips" and bringing a haunting. late-night hospital visit sense to it. Buy this if you don't really know of Duke/Billy's talents as composers. Duke's major works are very well-known, but it's a shame how little recognition Strayhorn has gotten, despite Dave Hadju's terrrific biography. Fortuneatley, the Dutch Jazz orchestra has recorded some of Strayhorn's long-hidden work, but much of his original performances and compositions have not yet seen the light of day. So listen to Ray Bryant here and sing the lyrics as he goes..."I'll live a lush life in some small dive...""