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Duke Elegant
     

Duke Elegant

5.0 1
by Dr. John
 
The centenary of Duke Ellington's birth saw exhaustive Ellington box sets and reverential tribute albums galore, but nobody attempted to "fonk-I-fie" the maestro until DUKE ELEGANT. And who better to take on that chore than the New Orleans Nighttripper, Dr. John, whose every piano lick is usually laden with mystical gris-gris. While some jazz traditionalists may feel

Overview

The centenary of Duke Ellington's birth saw exhaustive Ellington box sets and reverential tribute albums galore, but nobody attempted to "fonk-I-fie" the maestro until DUKE ELEGANT. And who better to take on that chore than the New Orleans Nighttripper, Dr. John, whose every piano lick is usually laden with mystical gris-gris. While some jazz traditionalists may feel that it's a travesty to use a funky electric bass and keyboard on "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," Dr. John's swampy groove not only makes your shoulders shake, it leaves you assured that the Duke would be charmed rather than alarmed. The rocked-up version of "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" opens with a thoroughly modern, and hysterical, rap about how Dr. John plays solitaire and watches "dirty" videos since he lost his woman, while his "Satin Doll" gets a snappy Latin makeover. Rest assured, all of this updating of the Duke isn't used to hide a lack of chops. On the straight-ahead, acoustic versions of "Solitude," "Mood Indigo," and "Do Nothin' 'Til You Hear from Me," Dr. John's playing is clean and distinctive if not quite up to his usually impeccable standards. Inspired reworkings of three more obscure Ellington tunes alone are worth the price of admission. "On the Wrong Side of the Railroad Tracks" becomes pure Southern gospel, "I'm Gonna Go Fishin'" uses organ fills for ambiance, and the instrumental "Flaming Sword" gets an extraordinary New Orleans treatment that finds Dr. John applying the piano style of New Orleans pioneer Professor Longhair to a snaky Caribbean beat. While it's great to hear straight-ahead units like the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra play Duke Ellington right down to the original arrangements, if you really want to appreciate the timelessness and adaptability of this brilliant composer, check out the subversive charms of DUKE ELEGANT.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Kenneth Bays
Duke Elegant certainly wasn't the only tribute to Duke Ellington put out in honor of the 100th anniversary of the legendary bandleader, nor was it even the first time Dr. John had tackled his material. But it would be hard to find a better homage than this one. Dr. John proves a surprisingly good match for Ellington's material, placing a tremendously funky foundation under the composer's tunes. The sound is dominated by the good doctor's incomparable New Orleans piano and organ, naturally, and the best tracks are those whose melodies are carried solely by his keyboard work, such as instrumentals "Caravan" and "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." The vocal cuts are fine -- his takes on the Ellington ballad "Solitude" and especially the dreamy, elegant "Mood Indigo" show off Dr. John's uniquely expressive voice as well as any of his early-era recordings -- though he occasionally tends to approach self-caricature, as on "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)." Any weakness, however, is more than made up for by the closing rearrangement of "Flaming Sword," one of three Ellington rarities here. Dr. John transforms the instrumental into a luminous, gorgeously melodic display of Professor Longhair-style piano over an astonishingly sexy New Orleans funk rhythm. Ultimately, Duke Elegant holds up both as an innovative twist on the Ellington songbook and as a solid Dr. John album in its own right.
Rolling Stone - Parke Puterbaugh
Dr. John and his lower 9-II band impart their own own subtly sassy N’Awlins style hoodoo to the work of Duke Ellington on this album of covers.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/01/2000
Label:
Blue Note Records
UPC:
0724352322022
catalogNumber:
23220

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Duke Elegant 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoy every song on this CD. Easy to listen to.