We Got It Good and That Ain't Bad: An Ellington Songbook

André Previn / David Finck

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We Got It Good and That Ain't Bad: An Ellington Songbook Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Previn has always been an adept, if not brilliant, pianist whose jazz leanings have belied his classical training. Here he interprets the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn lovingly and as well as any legit jazzster could, with help from the fine bassist David Finck. While this music can easily stand on its own, Previn's technical ability and heartfelt stretching of the original blueprints urge these well-worn tunes to carry new meaning and substance. If there are any stock treatments here, it's because the pianist tends to lay back and let the melodies come to him, as evidenced on the steady-paced "Isfahan," the easy "Serenade to Sweden," and the even easier swung "I Didn't Know About You." Previn wrings every emotional drop out of "In a Sentimental Mood," dismisses a time frame for the pristine "I Got It Bad" and "Come Sunday," while Finck is in late for the pensive "Chelsea Bridge." Melody is more implied with tempos at half and full speed on "It Don't Mean a Thing," Previn uses an off-minor change-up on the good swinger "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," and swaps 4/4 in the bridge for a waltzing 3/4 head and tail on "Take the A Train." Obviously an admirer of Oscar Peterson, Previn takes liberties and risks on the easy swing take of "In a Mellow Tone," trades ripped-up lines with the capable Finck, counter-punching during "Do Nothin' 'Til You Here From Me," and fervently digs into the up-tempo "Squatty Roo." Perhaps Previn's voracity is not well known, or as regarded in the modern jazz world as it should be, but on this recording it's clear how great he can be. This second CD with Finck, the previous being a Gershwin songbook "We Got Rhythm," signifies a step up for the veteran pianist, and is perhaps his shining recorded hour. Recommended.

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