COMPOSERS: Duke Ellington arr. Richard Hayman
LABELS: Naxos Jazz
WORKS: Arrangements by Richard Hayman
PERFORMER: RTE Concert Orchestra, Dublin
CATALOGUE NO: 8.555017
Like those of Beethoven, Ellington’s compositions have frequently been seized upon by over-eager arrangers. Fortunately his music is robust enough to survive the process and occasionally something interesting emerges as a result.
Richard Hayman’s approach is fairly predictable, forcing every Ellington standard you’ve ever heard into the perfunctory three minutes demanded by the livelier-than-average-easy-listening form which Remembering Duke Ellington typifies.
However, there’s one glorious exception to this, which alone justifies the usual Naxos fiver, in the shape of a wonderfully over-the-top version of ‘Caravan’, which, in terms of this album, qualifies as a mini-epic at four-and-a-half minutes.
The arrangement jettisons the sinuousness of the original in favour of Aida-esque thundering drums, serpentine strings, blaring brass and a brisk march tempo. Purists will scowl, but it’s effective and great fun.