Recorded during Duke Ellington's centennial year, this solo piano date by Ellis Marsalis is a tasteful tribute to Ellington. Marsalis expertly performs 15 songs from Duke's repertoire (including three tunes in a medley), sometimes modernizing the chords but always keeping the melody close by. The problem with the recital from the listener's standpoint is that the results are mostly very predictable and contain no real surprises. Marsalis' theme variations do not wander far from the melody, his treatments are conventional, and most of the songs are familiar warhorses. So although successful as background music or as an introduction to some of Ellington's most popular melodies, jazz listeners wanting more adventure and chance-taking may be a little disappointed by the safeness of it all.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow