Ellington • Gershwin

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ellington; Gershwin; Nestico
LABELS: Hänssler Classic
ALBUM TITLE: Ellington • Gershwin
WORKS: Ellington: Harlem; Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue; Nestico: A Swingphonic Collection
PERFORMER: Wayne Marshall (piano/direction), SWR Big band; Dresden Philharmonic
CATALOGUE NO: HAEN93282

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Once known for its Bruckner performances, the Dresden Philharmonic abandon the Austrian composer’s ‘cathedrals in sound’ for the American skyscraper and jazz dive. Conducted by Wayne Marshall and united with the Big Band of South-west German Radio, they blast a path through a live concert programme where decibel and frenzy levels keep hitting the ceiling. Barring its over-extended drumming spat, the account of Duke Ellington’s Harlem suite of 1950 is the most successful, its jazz excitements neatly fused with playing of symphonic depth. The Swingphonic Collection – five jazz standards arranged by Sammy Nestico, former colleague of Count Basie – puts both ensembles through their paces.

In between, quality and taste take a dip with Marshall’s self-indulgent Rhapsody in Blue, stretched to 19 minutes by his flashy piano solos, which leave Gershwin’s world of the 1920s too far behind. The vitality of this ‘symphonic jazz’ cornerstone remains, but not its flimsy structural cohesion.

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Geoff Brown