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In a Sentimental Mood: Mathis Sings Ellington

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Album Review

When Johnny Mathis got around to recording an album dedicated to Duke Ellington, he had been in the upper echelon of pop vocalists for more than 30 years. While his voice is a little lower than when he started out, he has lost none of that special taste and phrasing which made his records consistently favored by a wide segment of the listening public, both here and abroad. (This album was recorded in England). He still delivers each song with emotional intensity and personal intimacy which lends itself well to such melancholy tunes as "Lush Life." Musical tastes came and went, but Mathis seemed to be unfazed by it all. This album not only is a tribute to his endurance, but to the steadfastness of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's compositional ingenuity. Most of the arrangements by Brad Dechter and Byron Olson are lush, sentimental, and languid. Yet the music remains as absorbing and enticing as if it were arranged by Ellington himself and played by an all star group of jazz performers. There are a few outstanding jazz performers on this disc to give it a taste, albeit a tiny one, of jazz. Bill Berry's trumpet and Ronny Ross' baritone sax can be heard in the background on the some of the cuts. Fred Hersch's piano shines on such cuts as "In a Sentimental Mood" and "Day Dreams" and he gets a few seconds in the solo spotlight on "Caravan." The arrangements of "Do Nothin' Till You Hear From Me" and "In a Mello Tone" swing, or at least as much as Mathis's vocal ballad style lets them. Ellington purists may flinch a bit at this one, but for most this will be an entertaining 55 minutes of music.


Born: 30 September 1935 in Gilmer, TX

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he originally concentrated on theme-oriented...
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In a Sentimental Mood: Mathis Sings Ellington, Johnny Mathis
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