Numerous Duke Ellington tributes have been recorded over the years; regrettably, many of the ones that were recorded in the 1980s and '90s were ultra-predictable and anything but adventurous. Considering that Ellington -- who was arguably the most prolific composer of the 20th century -- provided literally hundreds of compositions when he was alive, it is most frustrating when an artist (especially a younger artist) refuses to embrace anything other than the Duke's most famous standards. Instead of playing yet another version of "Solitude," "In a Sentimental Mood," "Cotton Tail," or "Satin Doll" the same old way, how about digging deeper into his songbook and getting acquainted with lesser-known gems like "The Mystery Song," "Magenta Haze," "Blue Feeling," or "The Eighth Veil"? One Ellington tribute that cannot be called unadventurous is Duke Ellington's Sacred Music. Recorded live at the Cathedral of Lugano in Switzerland on March 29, 1998, this two-CD set documents a concert that is dedicated exclusively to the Duke's more spiritual compositions. The concert finds the Big Band de Lausanne being joined by some American visitors, including trumpeter Jon Faddis, drummer Adam Nussbaum, and singers Allan Harris and Michele Hendricks, and together, the American and European artists remind us that there was a lot more to Ellington's legacy than "In a Mellow Tone" and "Mood Indigo." The most well-known piece on Duke Ellington's Sacred Music is "Come Sunday" -- that classic is definitely a standard, but you could be a serious Ellington enthusiast and not recognize "The Shepherd," "Somethin' 'Bout Believing," "Praise God," or "David Danced" (all of which underscore his interest in church music). Without question, Duke Ellington's Sacred Music is among the more interesting and chance-taking Ellington tributes that was recorded in the '90s.
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AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2