Lorraine Feather

Such Sweet Thunder: Music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra

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It's a shame that Lorraine Feather wasn't able to contribute lyrics to the music of Duke Ellington prior to his death in 1974, as she's a natural storyteller. Ellington composed or co-wrote most of the 11 songs on this CD, though Feather chose lesser-known and especially challenging material to embellish with her gifts. She is also a superb singer who gets the most out of every track, joined by a large cast of talented musicians who sound as if they've played every chart together night after night for years.

It's hard to beat her hilarious "Imaginary Guy" (based upon "Dancers in Love"), a terrific ditty about a girl so fed up with the opposite sex that she dreamed up the ideal man in her mind. The obscure bossa nova "The Ricitic," written by Ellington for his small group session with Coleman Hawkins, is transformed to the sidesplitting "Antarctica" (sample lyrics: "I cried all night/That's half a year"), a song that is guaranteed to tickle the funny bone of the sourest curmudgeon. The dark-tinged "Lovely Creatures" (based upon the second movement to "Night Creature") is not without its humorous moments ("You've got looks and bucks and yet these blues/Seem to stick to you like gum to shoes").

She wrote the words to "September Rain" (adapted from Billy Strayhorn's gorgeous ballad "Chelsea Bridge") a number of years earlier and recorded it with her group In Full Swing. This chart, with the rhythm section arranged by pianist Mike Lang and the vocal group by Morgan Ames, is every bit as lush as the original instrumental, showcasing Feather's upper range and Terry Harrington's mellow tenor sax. "The 101" is a hard-charging reworking of "Suburbanite" that tells of a dash down a highway to catch up with her lover.

The finale, "Mighty Like the Blues," features words and music by the late Leonard Feather, Lorraine's father. Ellington recorded it in 1938 and again in 1960, though her version, jointly arranged by Russell Ferrante and Bill Elliott, will likely eclipse the maestro's own recordings.

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