The modus operandi of Ellington Is Forever, Vol. 2 is essentially the same as the first; Kenny Burrell gathered a great bunch of musicians together in a studio for a relaxed yet masterful tour through some of Ellington's best-known material. The sole exception to the Ellingtonia is the Strayhorn-penned "Take the 'A' Train," a song that will forever be associated with the Duke. Jimmy Jones provided a stunning solo reading of this composition on the first volume, but it gets a full band treatment on Vol. 2, and features a fantastic solo from Burrell, a bluesy romp through the changes. In fact, the leader seems to be a bit more present on this album compared to Ellington Is Forever, Vol. 1. This is not to say, however, that the excellent contributions of the many musicians on this record go without benefit of the spotlight. One only has to listen to Roland Hanna's solo piano introduction to "In a Sentimental Mood" or Philly Joe Jones' masterful brushwork on "I'm Beginning to See the Light" to realize the immense quality of the musicianship on display on this record. As on the first album, Ernie Andrews appears here on two tracks. His contributions, so essential to the overall quality of the first volume, are somewhat mixed here. His rendition of "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" is controlled and soulful, but his interpretation of "Satin Doll" seems a bit forced. However, this may seem this case only because the listener cannot help but compare it to the near-perfection of his performances on Vol. 1. Of historical note is the fact that this is the last recording to feature trombonist Quentin "Butter" Jackson, who passed away after the sessions were recorded but before the album could be released. Although he plays his horn with the confidence and expertise of a man who had been involved with some of the greatest bandleaders of all time (including Ellington), the most exquisite moment on this record is his singing on "Prelude to a Kiss." His soft, tremulous voice is frail and heart wrenching, and the fact of its inclusion alone is worth the price of admission. Burrell's initial plan was to release a volume in tribute to Ellington once a year, but this record and the one that preceded it were the only two albums in this proposed series that were ever made. One can only imagine what could have been if Burrell had continued. Alternately, and more positively, one can be glad that the only records that were released were as beautiful and as close to perfection as these two.
AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre