Dial & Oatts Rich De Rosa The WDR Big Band – Rediscovered Ellington Zoho 

by | Aug 18, 2017 | Jazz CD Reviews

Dial & Oatts Rich De Rosa The WDR Big Band – Rediscovered Ellington Zoho ZM201707 77:36**** 

A world of enjoyment from these Ellington gems

( Garry Dial – piano, arranger; Dick Oatts – soprano sax, alto sax, flute, arranger; Rich De Rosa – conductor, arranger, big band orchestrations; The WDR Big Band)

Duke Ellington, over the span of his lifetime, composed over 3000 songs and was probably the most prolific and prodigious creator of music in the jazz genre. Of his best know compositions such as “Mood Indigo”,”Solitude”,”Sophisticated Lady” etc. it may not be an exaggeration to say, there probably has not been a jazz musician either past or present who was exposed to Ellington’s music, that has not included one of his numbers in their repetoire.

Yet given all this recognition of his most illustrious compositions, there are some pieces that fall into the category of “name that tune”. There is a long story outlined in the liner notes on the genesis of this recording and the music, which much too detailed even to précis here. Needless to say, a special thanks should be offered to Dial, Oatts, De Rosa and The WDR Big Band for bringing these unheralded gems to life.

The WDR Big Band is based in Cologne, Germany and is a product of WDR ( Westdeutscher Rundfunk) which is the regional radio broadcaster for the North Rhine-Westphalia State of Germany. It is a first rate aggregation with unquestioned musical chops. The three principals Dial, Oatts and De Rosa shared, in various iterations, the arrangements of all the charts. They are bold, complex, and bristle with imagination.

Starting out with “Hey Baby”, which is the session’s longest track at near eleven minutes, gives the band’s brass section a chance to show its muscular efficiency while soprano saxophonist Oatts, along with pianist Dial, Paul Heller on tenor sax,  and Johan Hörlen on alto sax cover off the solo work. Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges were infrequent compositional collaborators but did so on “Let The Zoomers Drool” where the Duke defined “Zoomers” as a tiny grouping.  Here the WDR Big Band takes the number at a slower bluesier tempo than the 1945 recording by the Ellington Band. Pianist Dial and trombonist Shannon Barnett fly their colours with style.

While most of the pieces herein are solo Ellington compositions “Just A Gentle Word From You Will Do”, was an effort that rested primarily with Onzy Matthews, with Ellington’s participation. Dressed up with a slight Latin feel, it is an uncomplicated endeavour favouring the horn and reed sections, with Oatts on flute and Ludwig Ness on trombone.

“Introspection” is one of those Ellington swing numbers that would seem to have everything going for it. It has an engaging theme, and a rich narrative perfectly suited for a big band. Yet it was never recorded by the Ellington band, perhaps because it was not constructed as standard Ellington fare. On listening, one can easily imagine the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra diving into the piece with gusto.

Of the four remaining tracks, three are entirely Ellington compositions filled with the composer’s usual flourishes and stylistic nuances which the big band picks up with ease and delivers with precision. The final track is “I Must Be Mad” which Ellington co-wrote with Patricia Petremont. It is lovely ballad with sumptuous orchestration and a strong brass line that Oatts’ alto sax uses to adorn the effusiveness and expressiveness of the melody.

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow”. Such is the case with these Duke Ellington compositions.

Hey, Baby
Let The Zoomers Drool
I Like Singing
Just A Gentle Word From You Will Do
Love Came
I Must Be Mad

—Pierre Giroux

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