Twenty-five years after his untimely death from cancer, Duke Ellington is on a roll again. Critical reappraisal of his work has been very flattering, and posthumous awards are rolling in, including a recent Pulitzer Prize for music (which he was snubbed for in 1965).
"Ellingtonia" is one of many tributes to come out in honor of the centennial of Ellington's birth. Performed mostly by a roster of musicians on the Canadian jazz label Justin Time, it's a spirited but imperfect reading of some of Ellington's most memorable work.
Pianist Oliver Jones' trio starts the album off right with an up-tempo version of "Take the 'A' Train" and Oscar Peterson and bassist Dave Young nail "In A Mellow Tone." Yet songs like "In A Sentimental Mood" and "Duke's "Choice" fall flat in lesser hands, proving that Ellington's genius can be hard to capture in any year.
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