Various Artists

Satin Doll: Smooth Jazz Plays Duke Ellington

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Shanachie has done a number of smooth jazz tributes over the years, but perhaps none of them is more provocative than this one, which finds one of the music's great innovators and kings' sophisticated arrangements and complex horn charts all brought back down to the groove. Some of the artists who appear here are Everette Harp covering "Caravan" with an upbeat, funky dance rhythm in 2/4 and synthesized horn arrangements, but he gets through the cool knotty theme beautifully. Kim Waters does a beautiful balladic arrangement of "In a Sentimental Mood" with guitars, triangles and that signature alto sound. Chieli Minucci's "Sophisticated Lady" has some wild cadenzas written in and it's utter culture shock to the hear the tune in this way -- but then, this entire collection is -- the funked up version of "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" borrows a bit from the Stevie Wonder fakebook in its arrangement, but she's got the scat down. Kevin Toney has no less than three selections here, all of them turned inside out, from his laid-back, scooped out version of "Satin Doll," which somehow manages to keep the swing in the melody line, to his beautiful acoustic piano arrangement of "Prelude to a Kiss." The purists are gonna holler and scream and spill tears on their stereos over this set, and maybe they should, but the truth of the matter is that this is the closest thing to come down the pipe that marries one side of the jazz tradition to the other, and for that we should all be grateful. For those who thought Duke Ellington's music too stodgy or square in these postmodern times, they should take a listen to the groove master's own tunes to find the connection.

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