Vocalist Ron Gill has been on the Boston jazz scene for more than 30 years as a performer on radio, TV, and in clubs. He has also toured with the Duke Ellington Orchestra led by Mercer Ellington. Gill has a special affinity for the music of Ellington's alter ego, Billy Strayhorn, which comes through immediately upon hearing the opening measures of the first cut on this CD "Grievin'," one of Strayhorn's lesser-known melodies. Since the play list is dotted withStrayhorn unfamiliar material, this CD presents a unique opportunity to hear his works that don't get much play. In addition to "Grievin'," there's a lovely "Multicolored Blue" (aka "Violet Blue"), a song he wrote during his first decade as a composer. But it's those unmatched Strayhorn creations that pull the best from artists who perform them. One of the more compelling tracks is "Lush Life," where Gill does the first chorus a cappella before the mournful sax of Bill Thompson comes in. Like much of the Strayhorn song book, "Lush Life" is not an easy song to sing. But Gill, with an aptitude to capture and convey that special essence of Strayhorn's musical genius, has no problem with it at all. Other notable tracks include "Day Dream" that features Thompson's fluttering flute behind Gill's individual interpretation of one of the first songs Strayhorn composed in New York. The sterling group of musicians who back the singer get a change to perform as a unit on "Intimacy of the Blues," where Gill sits out. Along the way, pianist Manny Williams provides a lovely, low-keyed rendition of "Lotus Blossom." This album is Gill's first and, hopefully, not his last. Recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Nathan