Duke Ellington Piano Solos

Roland Hanna

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Duke Ellington Piano Solos Review

by Stephen Cook

For lovers of solo jazz piano, this Roland Hanna disc offers one of the most consistently enjoyable 46 minutes of music to be heard. Over the ten Ellington selections here (with the addition of Billy Strayhorn's "Isfahan"), Hanna finely works the subtle phrasing and singing tone he once plied in Mingus' band and perfected on many solo outings during the '70s and '80s. An appropriately introspective version of "In My Solitude" opens the program, setting the tone for this intimate and, at times, meditative consideration of some Ellington's finest pieces. Other ballad highlights include a hushed and melancholic "In a Sentimental Mood," as well as delicate and spacious readings of "Single Petal of a Rose" and "Isfahan." Hanna enlivens the mood a bit on choice, medium-tempo renditions of "Portrait of Bert Williams" and the Ellington/Strayhorn collaboration "Something to Live For," demonstrating his easygoing, stride-piano technique in the process. In somewhat stark contrast to the rest of the set, Hanna also includes an engagingly abstract rendition of "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good," rendering the familiar, blues-tinged theme almost unrecognizable. Hanna ends the set in upbeat fashion with a bravura performance of "Caravan." Bolstered by excellent sound, this top-notch set is a must for Hanna enthusiasts and highly recommended to all fans of straight-ahead jazz.

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