The Duke Ellington Legacy is a band procreated by tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew at the behest of guitarist Edward Kennedy Ellington II, son of Mercer Ellington and grandson of Duke Ellington. Though Ellington II takes a subsidiary role on this program of pure Ellingtonia, the direction of Mayhew and pianist/arranger Norman Simmons makes for a pleasurable listening experience, solidly based in precepts of the legendary bandleader, with faithful adaptations and a few modifications. Vocalist Nancy Reed, she of the Carmen McRae-styled singing, is the most noticeable variable, baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley from Ellington's bands lends legit authenticity, while trombonist Wycliffe Gordon injects a youthful enthusiasm. Mayhew is in the middle, directing, charting the course, and allowing herself plenty of space to liberally solo. Reed sings on a modified chart of "Perdido" with an outstanding trumpet solo from Mark McGowan, the classic ballads "Day Dream," "Come Sunday," and the well swung "Cotton Tail," with Reed and the horns both joining together for lots of fun on that tricky melody. Percussionist Sheila Easley and Reed join the band for the Latinized "Caravan" and the mambo infused "In a Sentimental Mood," with a modal Simmons buoying the band. The pianist really receives his spotlight feature on the leisurely pace of "Isfahan" with the horns returning the favor as underpinning. Ellington II's only guitar lead shows up on "Moon Mist," and it's a beaut, as are the contributions of Temperley, most relevant on the subdued "Sentimental Mood" and the melody of "Moon Mist." Mayhew is never dominant, save the exceptional, roaring, driving hard bop unison horn line of "The Tickler," her composition, one that fairly jumps out of the speakers, and the lone non-Ellington track. As a collective effort, this is a recording unmistakably played with dignity, pride, respect, and a high degree of musicality. It comes recommended to all classic and mainstream jazz devotees.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos