Modern String Quartet

Plays Duke Ellington

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There haven't been a lot of jazz string quartets that have held together long enough to build an extensive discography. The Modern String Quartet, made up of four European musicians (cellist Jost-H. Hecker, violinists Jorg Widmoser and Nicolas Tramitz, plus violist Andreas Horicht), can easily be compared to the early years of the American group Turtle Island String Quartet, though the Europeans have a different sound and aren't copying the other band's style (if they even heard them prior to making this recording). Most of the songs come from Duke Ellington's extensive repertoire, including an intricate chart of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the 'A' Train" that incorporates riffs from many other songs, a dark "Caravan" that features an enticing vamp, and a haunting treatment of Strayhorn's melodramatic "Lush Life" (a piece that Ellington never cared for, as he always stepped aside in concerts to allow its composer to perform it), in which the strings frequently suggest horns. Added are a pair of tasty originals and a swinging treatment of Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke." The lack of liner notes is a bit frustrating and one wonders if this was a one-shot recording. or if other CDs were made and issued only in Europe, in any case, jazz fans who enjoy string quartets should seek out this hard-to-find release.

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