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Album Review

Digital Duke is a collection of digitally mixed and mastered compositions written by and usually associated with Duke Ellington. Mercer Ellington, the younger half of the father-and-son team, conducts the Duke Ellington Orchestra complete with former members of Duke's orchestra Louis Bellson, Chuck Connors, Clark Terry, Norris Turney, and Britt Woodman. Special guest performances by Branford Marsalis, Eddie Daniels, Roland Hanna, and Gerry Wiggins add to the excitement of the newly mastered collaborations. Produced by Michael Abene and Mercer Ellington, the three days spent at Clinton Recording Studio in New York City sets out to improve the relationship between the generations and their long-term appreciation of the swing era. Executive producers Dave Grusin and Larry Rosen decided to concentrate on Ellington pieces that became standards in the jazz repertory. Digitally updating the Duke's music, which was always defined by common musical threads, distinctive harmonies, unique piano playing, and unusual combinations of instruments, would require only the best musicians. The result is a timeless tribute to one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. The essence of traditional and contemporary concepts come together on "Cottontail." It showcases an extraordinary Branford Marsalis saxophone solo honed in the Ellington style. He satisfies listeners again, at just the right tempo, with his impeccable tenor saxophone on "Take the 'A' Train." The easy pace is exactly right, as Gerry Wiggins' piano intros the time-honored ode that soon became Duke's trademark. Eddie Daniels adds a new, velvet-like, clarinet solo to the timeless, three-horn favorite "Mood Indigo." Louis Bellson, who was Duke's drummer in the early '50s and again on many reunions, is in great form on "Perdido" and "In a Mellotone." Digital Duke is a very special project, thoughtfully executed by Mercer Ellington and company.

Customer Reviews

Every note is perfect, every phrase exquisite...

This was one of the first two CD's I ever bought. It was 1990, I was 19 years old, and in college. I've listened to it thousands of times now. I've seduced people to this music. I've shared drinks, good times and great memories with friends and family to this music. I've flown around the world with this music playing softly in my ears. The pianist, Sir Roland Hanna, and the drummer (who I'm too lazy to get up and look up right now), have shaped and influenced the way I play piano and drums. There is such an elegance and presence of mind in the way the music is shaped and phrased and orchestrated, and it brings me every bit as much enraptured enjoyment now, as it did nearly 20 years ago when I listened to it for the first time.

This is NOT a Duke Ellington album

Although iTunes lists the artist as "Duke Ellington and His Orchestra," this album was recorded in 1987, over a decade after Duke Ellington passed away. The band is actually led by Ellington's son, Mercer, and these are remakes of classic compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, not the original recordings. (There's also one tune that Duke Ellington wrote but apparently never recorded; here it's called "22 Cent Stomp," in reference to the postage stamp that, in 1987, had just been issued in Duke's honor.) The performances are good, and the musicians include a few alumni from late editions of the real Duke Ellington Orchestra (notably Clark Terry), as well as some fine players who never performed with the Duke (notably Branford Marsalis). However, if you want to hear the authentic, original recordings of these songs, featuring great musicians like Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, and the Duke himself, you will have to look elsewhere. I'd recommend starting with the collection called "Never No Lament (The Blanton-Webster Band)."

There simply is no better...

There simply is no better blues & jazz combination. It pulls you in as you feel every note. You can close your eyes and take a jorney back in time to the sounds of pure perfection. This one is a must for any jazz collection. Rarely can you put an album on and run with it as you can with this album. Pure perfection.

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