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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke, Jack Ashby


Remembering Duke Ellington

RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Dublin/Richard Hayman

Recorded RTÉ Studios, Dublin, 1993

NAXOS LIGHT CLASSICS 8.555017 [56.11]


Take the "A" Train
Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
I Got It Bad And That Ainít Good
Mood Indigo
I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
Sophisticated Lady
Satin Doll
Iím Beginning To See The Light
Sweet Georgia Brown
Black and Tan Fantasy
Alcibiades (from Timon of Athens)
The Mooch
It Donít Mean A Thing If It Ainít Got That Swing
Love Scene
Donít Get Around Much Anymore

There have been a number of repertory bands specialising in Ellingtonís music Ė Pete Longís Echoes of Ellington orchestra, recently disbanded, being one of the most faithful. Others chart more or less of a straight-ahead approach, including Ellingtonia in their programmes alongside other standards. Here we have an album of arrangements of Ellington by American conductor and MD, Richard Hayman. His track record in film and theatre work is distinguished but his take on Ellington is broadly popular and tends to reflect the more democratic (non-doctrinaire) approach that wonít overly appeal to the purist who requires his Duke preserved in historicist aspic.

So if you fancy some Broadway Gershwin with your Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me or sickly strings in I Got It Bad And That Ainít Good perhaps you should lend an ear. There are cod intros galore here and Hayman is not afraid to dish out the camp from time to time Ė Caravan has the letters MGM quivering in the sand beside it, from brazen Rimsky to Technicolor scoring. Iím not quite sure what Sweet Georgia Brown is doing here and Black and Tan Fantasy goes easy on the Jungle Music but does indulge a half-hearted piano boogie solo. Is that South Rampart Street Parade in the opening bars of a little-known Shakespearean setting, Alcibiades from Timon of Athens?

Itís good to hear Love Scene though less good to hear the rhythmically unvaried playing in some places and the rather frivolous arrangements such as It Donít Mean A Thing If It Ainít Got That Swing. Hayman isnít really inside the Ellingtonian genre from these examples and the band has little chance to really stretch out Ė no details of the band and no soloists are mentioned in the notes, though occasionally they take wing (tenor, trumpet, piano Ė but I think thereís an electric bass in the band as well which is as welcome as a cop at a speakeasy). More for broadcast than repeated listening.

Jonathan Woolf


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