Ellington: Classic Ellington: songs & arrangements,

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COMPOSERS: Ellington
WORKS: Classic Ellington: songs & arrangements,
PERFORMER: Lena Horne (vocals); CBSO/Simon Rattle
Simon Rattle made a successful foray into the realm of jazz with The Jazz Album, made, with the London Sinfonietta, at the beginning of his association with EMI. Now he returns to that field with this tribute to Duke Ellington. (For the record, not all of the music here was written by Ellington himself, or by Ellington alone.) The arrangements are all by Luther Henderson, who has rightly felt free to take the kind of liberties that the jazz idiom encourages. Numbers like ‘Take the “A” Train’ (given with compelling momentum) and ‘Sophisticated Lady’ take on a new significance, and poignancy is added by the fact that the octogenarian jazz singer Lena Horne, pre-recorded, takes part in three Billy Strayhorn numbers, ‘You’re the One’, ‘Something to Live For’ and ‘Maybe’. Though the voice is of course a little fragile now, the style is there. There are also a number of distinguished jazz soloists of older and younger generations. What is most significant about this disc, however, is that there is no sense of jazz manner versus classical manner, of any need to ‘crossover’. The music, whether founded in the jazz tradition or, as in two movements from the Far East Suite, with a more overtly classical aspiration behind it, has plenty of substance and seriousness and variety behind it, and all the musicians here, of whatever background, respond in kind. Stephen Pettitt