Tenorist/flutist Jed Levy's Mood Ellington can be both admired and enjoyed for its imaginative reworkings of some lesser-known Duke Ellington compositions, all performed with skill and affection by a stellar quintet. The only well-known tune among them is "Mood Indigo," and it receives an appealing reharmonization. The rest of the well-balanced program consists of relatively unfamiliar pieces such as "Action in Alexandria," "Circle of Fourths" and "Dancers in Love."
Although pianist Bill Mays does occasionally inject a few Dukeisms, such as the brief stride passages in "New World A-Comin'" and a few Duke-like runs in other spots, but for the most part the improvisations are the kind soloists would play in more conventional contexts--though are all of the first order. Levy possesses an attractive tone and overall approach more like those of Joe Henderson or Joe Lovano than of many of his Coltrane-oriented contemporaries, and trumpeter Jack Walrath projects a personal style nearly devoid of cliches. Drummer Jeff Brillinger and bassist Martin Wind play their roles expertly.