Mercer Ellington

Only God Can Make a Tree

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This was the final project of Mercer Ellington who, even this late in his life (within a year of his death), was unable (or unwilling) to escape from the shadow of his father; he should at least have renamed his big band after himself. Actually, this is one of Mercer's finest individual recordings, for although the majority of the selections were composed by Duke (including "Caravan" and "Ballet of the Flying Saucers"), the arrangements (two by the leader) are fresh, the orchestra hints at Duke's without sounding much like it, and the colorful music is an effective tour of the world. Other than just a couple of alumni (trumpeter Barrie Lee Hall and trombonist Art Baron), the band members are fairly young, and among the guests are drummer Max Roach (for one number) and Professor Ken Philmore on steel drums. If only Mercer Ellington had had the confidence to carve out his own musical path many years earlier.

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