Echoes of Ellington is one of Intersound's series of CDs where pianist Gary Motley pays tribute to such icons as Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra. Motley, who is based in Atlanta and teaches at Emory University, brings to this compilation a profound feel for Ellington's compositions and does so without fanfare. Employing a light and delicate touch, he creates an atmosphere of otherworldliness. Tastefully and lyrically simple, Motley avoids dazzling runs, arpeggios, crescendos, and other flashy techniques that some interpreters of Ellington feel are needed to best convey the emotion of songs such as "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Sophisticated Lady." Even a medium tempo "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" get a straightforward portrayal of the melodic inventiveness that was uniquely Ellington's . "Come Sunday" and the less familiar "Heaven" capture the spirituality Ellington sought with his sacred music. It's almost impossible to do an album dedicated to Ellington without including at least one song by his alter ego, Billy Strayhorn. Motley has chosen "Lush Life." If flamboyant Ellington is what one seeks, look elsewhere. But for a quiet, admiring, and elegant representation of the music of Ellington performed on piano, this CD will be more than satisfying. Recommended.
Echoes of Ellington Review
by Dave Nathan