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Bird of Paradise Orchestra: Paris Blues

Ann Arbor, Michigan’s Bird of Paradise Orchestra offers more Ellingtonia in Paris Blues (Bopo), the band’s fourth release. Ellington’s “Paris Blues,” “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” “Just Squeeze Me” and “Imagine My Frustration” are included in a program that also features Don Redman’s “I’d Love It” (in its unaltered 1930 form), Woody Shaw’s “Rosewood,” Michel Legrand’s “Watch What Happens” and Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here With You,” along with several sophisticated, totally modern originals and a clever James Dapogny 1930s period piece. For the most part, the hip arrangers, led by leader/bassist Paul Keller, put their personal stamps on the classic tunes so that the overall program projects a sense of up-to-the-minute contemporaneity. An interesting anomaly, however, is the group’s adaptation for vocalist Susan Chastain of “Imagine My Frustration,” which Ellington recorded with Ella Fitzgerald in 1965-it’s still odd to hear the Duke’s take on “doo wop.” Although it’s no longer surprising to find excellent big bands scattered throughout the world, this Detroit-area ensemble-precise, responsive and swinging-is especially noteworthy.

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