“Sugar Hill” – The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – The New York Sessions series – Chesky

by | Jul 10, 2008 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

“Sugar Hill” – The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn – The New York Sessions series – Chesky Multichannel SACD333, 54:06 ****:

(David Hazeltine, piano/leader; Javon Jackson, tenor sax; Tony Reedus, drums; Paul Gill, bass)

Though this is the first recording date together for the four players here, they have played with one another frequently. The concept for this quartet album is to honor the song-writing geniuses Ellington and Strayhorn, who from 1938 to 1967 carried on a partnership that produced one terrific tune after another.  Ellington gets the first four tracks of the nine-track disc, the next is from Duke’s son Mercer (Things Ain’t What They Used to Be – didn’t know he wrote that!), and two of the remaining four are Strayhorn originals – his classic Chelsea Bridge and my personal fav Strayhorn tune, Lotus Blossom.

Jackson has a rich and reedy sax tone that’s just perfect for the Ellington material, and Hazeltine’s arrangements are tasteful and tuneful without imitating others. The sounds of all four players are most natural and very spatial – this was recorded basically with a single-point surround mike in a church venue with natural acoustics. No studio gimmicks. Even the drum set and piano – which usually calls for a forest of mikes in most jazz studio recordings – come across with proper strength and balance with the other instruments.  Hazeltine’s piano is on the left with the drums over on the right, and again the piano sounds natural-sized – not stretched across the soundstage.

1. Caravan
2. Warm Valley
3. In My Solitude
4. Prelude to a Kiss
5. Things Ain’t What They Used to Be
6. Chelsea Bridge
7. In a Mellow Tone
8. In a Sentimental Mood
9. Lotus Blossom

 – John Henry

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