Orchestra de Cambra Teatro Lliure

Tribute to Duke Ellington

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Pianist Lluís Vidal leads this talented Spanish ensemble through a set of pieces written in honor of Duke Ellington. Any such project runs the risk of devolving into "posthumous flattery," to borrow a derisive phrase from the group's trombonist, Sergi Vergés. But this is different: These are tributes to tributes, if you will. All the tracks are Ellington homages written through the years by other famous writers. From Willie "The Lion" Smith's "Portrait of the Duke" to Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke," Vidal explores the ways in which people across musical eras and genres have attempted to honor Ellington. In the process, he gives each piece a new orchestral flavor of his own design. "Sir Duke," for instance, gets a Dixieland-style makeover. Vidal also gives his fine players ample room to stretch out. Instrumental highlights include Pere Bardagí's violin on Charles Mingus's "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love," Xavier Figuerola's sax on Mingus's "Open Letter to Duke," Dani Pérez's overdriven guitar on Miles Davis's "He Loved Him Madly," and Vidal's own unaccompanied tour de force on Smith's "Portrait of the Duke." Vidal remains faithful to the melodic charm of Dave Brubeck's "The Duke" and the Clare Fischer tune of the same name. In contrast, Franz Kolgmann's "Thoughts About Duke I," a Spartan trio for sax, trumpet, and tuba, is far and away the most abstract cut. The one original of the session, Vidal's "One for Duke," is a pastiche of Ellington styles that is at once comic and highly complex.