John Brown Trio – Dancing With Duke – An Homage to Duke Ellington (Brown Boulevard Records)
Recorded over two days in March 2010, the John Brown Trio paid tribute to the celebrated composer and bandleader Duke Ellington with Dancing With Duke. This is the trio’s second album, after 2007’s Art Blakey tribute Terms of Art. The album gets off to a nice, relaxed start with “In a Mellow Tone,” with Brown’s richly resonant bass solo. Turning up the heat on a waltz-time “Do Nothing ‘til You Hear From Me,” pianist Cyrus Chestnut delivers a fantastic solo.
Brown and company work wonders on “Pie Eye’s Blues,” providing endlessly inventive solos on this relative obscurity. Brown steps to the fore after more strong work from Chestnut. Drummer Adonis Rose turns in an energetic solo before the tune concludes. The musicians do a very effective job of breathing new line into some well-worn tunes, via the trio format. Their arrangements were apparently spontaneously developed once they got into the studio. The “Sweet Ballad Suite” contains some of their most lyrical playing, with Brown’s wonderful bowed bass work on “Solitude.”
Even the overplayed standard “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” sounds fresh with the trio’s sly, slippery take. That particular tune closes out Dancing With Duke in high style. The John Brown Trio is a group to keep an ear out for. They do Ellington proud.
Swingadelic – The Other Duke – Tribute to Duke Pearson (ZOHO Music)
Pianist-composer Duke Pearson (1932-1980) was quite active during the 1960s, releasing more than a dozen albums throughout the decade. Among several artists he recorded with as a sideman, Pearson worked extensively with trumpeter Donald Byrd. He was an A&R man for the famed Blue Note Records from 1963-1971. New York City-based big band Swingadelic has honored Pearson with their latest release, The Other Duke – Tribute to Duke Pearson.
Most of the ten arrangements are the either the work of Swingadelic bassist Dave Post, who also produced the album, or tenor sax/flutist Paul Carlon. Of the ten tunes, seven of them are Duke Pearson originals, including his best-known tune, “Jeannine.” The band performs very professionally, swinging each tune convincingly. Pearson’s “Big Bertha” stands out as an up-tempo tune with lots of swagger and several strong solos. Post’s deft bass work is a prominent feature of the itchy “Ready Rudy.” Baritone sax man Jeff Hackworth turns in some full-bodied lead breaks throughout.
Swingadelic has been gigging and recording regularly since 1998. The Other Duke – Tribute to Duke Pearson, while not a ground-shaking release, should contribute to continued steady work.