Danish Radio Big Band / Jesper Thilo

A Little Bit of Duke

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A Little Bit of Duke Review

by Scott Yanow

There are many ways to pay tribute to a jazz great, ranging from exact recreations to abstract improvisations based on the spirit of the artist. The Danish Radio Big Band does not attempt to revive the Ellington sound except in selected spots (where the brass use plunger mutes) and on some arranged choruses. Their tribute concert is a good excuse to play a variety of familiar Ellington standards. In addition to six familiar pieces (including a joyful "Bojangles" and the driving "Cotton Tail"), two lesser-known Ellington compositions are revived ("Blue Rose" and "Blue Light") and there are a pair of originals: a 19½-minute "The Governor" (which has several sections) and Ernie Wilkins's "A Little Bit of Duke." The best-known soloist is guest Jesper Thilo who plays both tenor and clarinet while other key musicians include tenorman Uffe Markussen (who sounds a little like Lew Tabackin), trumpeter Henrik Bolberg Pedersen and trombonist Vincent Nilsson. With the exception of Wilkins's title cut, all of the arrangements come from within the orchestra. The consistently swinging music, although never a close copy of Ellington's band, should please his fans.

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