The multi-talented reed wizard Dan Block thinks as deeply as he plays.
Dan’s evocation of the musical world of Duke Ellington (and Billy Strayhorn) is more than a trip through familiar Ellingtonia; rather, Dan seeks to inhabit that singular world and at the same time make it his own (as he’s done brilliantly on his new CD, FROM HIS WORLD TO MINE).
Obviously, his reverence for Ellington’s music comes through from the first note, but he doesn’t attempt to recreate old recordings. Dan honors Ellington’s startling inventiveness by offering his own versions of memorable — but often lesser-known — melodies. The songs are there, but Dan has felt free to alter their rhythmic underpinnings, to change their expected tempos — with wonderful results.
Here, Dan and a splendid rhythm section of Ehud Asherie, piano; Jon Burr, bass; Pete Siers, drums, invent and reinvent at Jazz at Chautauqua on September 17, 2010.
KISSING BUG, a pretty Forties lament about a wandering lover, is here shaken (not stirred) with a delightfully energetic rhythmic pattern, which shows this tune in a new light:
CREOLE BLUES, the main theme from Ellington’s pioneering extended work CREOLE RHAPSODY, is a tender rhapsody in its own: how well this quartet sings!
OLD KING DOOJI is Dan’s romping homage to the unparalleled 1940-41 orchestra:
And rather than offer MOOD INDIGO or SOLITUDE for Ellington ballads, Dan went through the repertoire and found ALL HEART (a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald, originally played by Harold “Shorty” Baker) and the late-Forties CHANGE MY WAYS:
Finally (Dan had many more songs to play, but more about that below) the set ended with an exuberant reading of the first COTTON CLUB STOMP, which proved true to its title:
I mentioned above that Dan had much more music that he wanted to play. “How can we hear it?” you ask. The Ellington CD, FROM HIS WORLD TO MINE, is an absolute reward from start to finish. Here’s the piece I wrote about it when it first appeared in June 2010: https://jazzlives.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/dan-blocks-vivid-imaginations/. Not to be missed!