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One of the coolest
men in rock history meets and greets the historical legacy of one of the coolest
men in jazz, producing a rare thing of beauty - a covers album that has an air
of freshness, yet manages to retain the hallmarks of enduring quality that are
the motivation for attempting any such project initially. Duke Ellington's music
was made for this hands-on approach: a smitten reverence or dutiful worship
at the shrine would be to insult the memory. This is music to play - to move
and groove to. There is more than something of the night in the voice of the
good doctor - as befits his affectionate pseudonym - the Night Tripper: and
his smoky timbre and low register nasal whine is no better heard than on 'It
Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)' - a slab of midnight delight
bound up in a foxy tuxedo.
The minimal sax
of instrumental 'Perdido' winds it cheekily funky way around organ playing that
is as equally crisp and light as fried Louisiana chicken. The instruments build
to an oily-fingered and satisfying fusion before the return to the original
theme. As with the rest of the selected tracks, the consummate ease of the arrangements
reflects as great a credit on his regular band - The Lower 9-11 as it does on
his intuitive keyboard skills. The doctor just carries on doing what comes naturally
- extolling the virtues of his swampy thing, while tunnelling through the Ellington
'Satin Doll' are classic jazz club sketches - nice! - chock-full of so much
timeless taste that they appear fit to burst from all the calorific sophistication.
'If You Don't Get Around Much Anymore' - don't worry, as long as you have this
at home the film noir / jazz age evocations conjured up will come to you in
full technicolour; and er, it's totally outta sight if you can get your head
around the contradiction.
contradictory about the obvious empathy Mac lovingly wraps over the shoulders
of the former champion and this album serves as a perfect entrée to the
works of either artist. 'Thing's Ain't What They Used To Be' showcases the deft
keyboard touches once again (what an organ… he ought to see a doctor!) all softly
caressed by the gossamer light of a choppy, funk guitar and slapped up without
a hitch by a nervous bass.
Forget all the
inevitable clichés that are cooked up ad nauseam for the Rebennack oeuvre:
it's real feelgood medicine; take a visit to the best aural
clinic in town… etc. - okay, I just made them up, but even if this is the
first time you've visited the surgery I'm sure you can guess the rest anyhow.
No, this has all the pick-me up quality and associated street sass of illegal
drugs, though with none of the associated withdrawl of the morning after. Listening
to Duke Elegant ensures it's always the night before. Ah, and what a
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