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Piano in the Foreground
Piano in the Foreground
In the liner notes to this reissue of Duke's 1961 LP, Joe Goldberg says, "If Ellington did nothing but play the piano, he would be a giant." Duke wows with I Can't Get Started; Cong-Go; Body and Soul; Summertime; Springtime in Africa , and more-including eight bonus recordings from '57!
Duke Ellington's piano style influenced generations of pianists, from Thelonious Monk to Randy Weston. This 1961 trio recording, with his orchestra's rhythm section of drummer Sam Woodyard and Aaron Bell, clearly unveils the maestro's powerful touch, black-and-tan chords, and unstoppable swing, all often overshadowed in the work of his bigger bands. The standard "Body and Soul" shows Ellington's debt to James P. Johnson's Harlem stride style, while "Blues for Jerry," recalls Count Basie's Kansas City grooves. "Cong-go" masterfully marries Nigerian highlife and Cuban congorhythms, while Gershwin's "Summertime" and "Springtime in Africa" become surprising, evocative tone poems that foreshadow the avant-garde abstractions of the '70s. There's also a deeply personal rendering of Billy Strayhorn's "Lotus Blossom," which was not included on the original LP. The last six bonus tracks come from a pair of 1957 sessions with Jimmy Woode on bass. All in all, this disc is a worthy addition to Ellington's other keyboard classics, Money Jungle and Piano Reflections. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
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