The Crown Project formed with the mission of paying tribute to the greats of mid-century jazz. The band's goal was to give the same kind of respect to jazz composers that has always been accorded their classical brethren -- namely, that their music should have value as a composition and be reinterpreted by modern musicians. To that end, the Crown Project has recorded several CDs, including this offering, Ultimate Ellington. In many ways, Ellington is both the best and worst possible subject for a tribute. He was certainly a masterful and prolific composer, writing well over 1,000 compositions, and is respected as one of the greatest American composers of this century. However, Ellington the arranger would consistently tinker with his compositions, depending on who was playing them. Part of what made his music so great is that every time it was performed, the strengths of the musicians doing the performing had been written into the arrangement, to highlight the positive qualities of their playing. A tribute band like the Crown Project could not remain faithful to both the written text and the spirit of this style of arrangement without going far afield of what Ellington had done. Ultimately, this project offers a pleasant tribute, and the musicians playing on it are definitely skilled, but it lacks some of the magic of Ellington himself.
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AllMusic Review by Stacia Proefrock