A septet of veteran Ellingtonians manage to find a new vibe
Matthew Watters | Vietnam | 02/05/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The other reviewer is actually quite right, although the comments are a bit telegraphic. The "difference" of this album from other Ellington small unit sessions is the presence of vibes instead of piano. The album is really a piano-less septet session of Ellingtonians from September 1957, with two tracks from a June 1957 session added on to bring the length of the LP up. These two tracks really just serve to detract from the vision of what Terry was trying to do here, however, as they feature Strayhorn on piano and, on "In a Sentimental Mood", a disturbingly operatic vocal by Marian Bruce. The September tracks, on the other hand, are all top-notch, and "Mood Inigo" is definitely the stand-out track. Note how Johnny Hodges, who has probably improvised on this material thousands of times, adjusts his approach to the sort of otherworldy atmosphere the vibes give to the tune. Hodges finds yet another beautiful new way to solo on "Mood Indigo". Throughout, the only player who doesn't make these adjustments to the small-group, piano-less setting is drummer Sam Woodyard. He doesn't do anything wrong; he just gives the same cymbal-riding, swing-oriented performance he would have with the Ellington band. I can only imagine how much more amazing this album would have been with a drummer with a different conception, like Art Blakey, for instance. A nice set, still, for fans of Terry, Hodges and Paul Gonsalves, who all get nice solo turns. Just program the CD to skip the two June tracks. They don't fit in here at all."