Duke Ellington tributes, much like Cole Porter, George Gershwin, John Coltrane, and Miles Davis tributes, were a dime a dozen in the '80s and '90s. All too often, these Ellington tributes were unimaginative and predictable, sticking to the standards while ignoring the many lesser-known gems that were written by Ellington or his partner Billy Strayhorn. But predictability isn't a problem on We Thought About Duke, a cerebral post-bop date that trumpeter/flugelhornist Franz Koglmann co-led with alto sax master Lee Konitz. This is definitely one of the more daring Ellington tributes that came out of the '90s. Instead of inundating us with standards that we've heard time and time again, Koglmann provides arrangements of such underexposed Ellington pieces as "Love Is in My Heart," "Zweet Zurzday" (which he co-wrote with Strayhorn), and "Lament for Javanette." In fact, one could be a serious Ellington enthusiast and be unfamiliar with these compositions. The best-known song on the CD is "The Mooche," which Ellington unveiled in 1928. Although "The Mooche" can hardly be considered obscure, it hasn't been done to death à la "In a Mellow Tone" or "Cotton Tail." Koglmann's arrangements have strong classical/chamber music leanings, and his admiration for Gil Evans is evident. For those seeking an Ellington tribute that is adventurous rather than conventional, We Thought About Duke is highly recommended.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson