The great American composer, Duke Ellington, is honored by the first lady of jazz piano, Marian McPartland, with The Single Petal of a Rose: The Essence of Duke Ellington. Recorded live at Maybeck Studio for the Performing Arts, this great program of solo and duet compositions features McPartland opening her spontaneous program with a vivid account of "Take the A Train." She follows it with a swinging performance of "Just Squeeze Me." Joined by Bill Douglas on acoustic bass, the duo's rapport is very fresh despite having collaborated for 15 years. Douglas' solos also make the musical concepts more interesting and keep the duo in good shape with creative reharmonizations. All songs were composed by Duke Ellington, except for McPartland's own "Cerulescence," a serene solo piano tribute to Duke and the opening track, which was composed by Billy Strayhorn. "Take the Coltrane," composed for Ellington's duo album with saxophonist John Coltrane, and her lovely rendition of "Single Petal of a Rose" are but two of the obscure but marvelous Ellington treasures portrayed in a new setting. McPartland concludes her program with a slow, sensitive, insightful rendition of "C Jam Blues" in what must be one of the most masterful arrangements of this great classic. The Single Petal of a Rose: The Essence of Duke Ellington is sure to become one of Marian McPartland's most remarkable accomplishments.
AllMusic Review by Paula Edelstein