Duke In Blue by Ellis Marsalis
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Despite his prodigious talents on piano, Ellis Marsalis has been largely content to remain in his hometown of New Orleans, raising sons who would go on to win wide acclaim in the jazz world. And with albums like Duke in Blue
to his credit, Marsalis ought to be content, as this is easily among the most fulfilling nods to Ellington
in his centennial year. The playing is neither reserved nor sporty, relying on color and a slowed pace to demonstrate how well Ellington built his works from behind the keyboard. "Come Sunday" gets the most sublime reading, and "The Mooche" gets the broadest, brightest jump, opening the session. In between, there's "Squatty Roo" with its finger-jumping complexity and "Reflections in D" to quietly indulge a melancholic strain that runs throughout Duke in Blue
. Maybe Marsalis's vision of Ellington is suffused with the blues, not just their structure but their philosophic, on-the-run underpinnings. After all, Marsalis chose to remain somewhat local in the Crescent City, deepening his family's legacy for sure. And Ellington? Well, he barely came off the road for home leave in all his decades of touring. In any event, Marsalis sounds experienced and wise throughout his Ellingtonian forays, ever comfortable and carefully creative. --Andrew Bartlett