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Duke Ellington Legacy: Thank You Uncle Edward

Technically, it’s “Grandpa Edward”: Guitarist Edward Kennedy Ellington II, who conceived the tribute band known as the Duke Ellington Legacy in 2004, is the Maestro’s grandson.

Ellington II appointed tenor saxophonist Virginia Mayhew to serve as bandleader and co-arranger (along with pianist Norman Simmons), and it was a savvy choice. With her burnished tone, whip-smart rhythmic acuity and swing, and overall stylistic elegance, Mayhew invokes both Duke’s spirit and his actual musical oeuvre with effortless grace. Her compatriots are equally adept, and several have Hall of Fame pedigrees. Simmons’ past affiliations include Pres, Bird, Coleman Hawkins and Roy Eldridge, among others. Baritone saxist Joe Temperley (Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Thad Jones-Mel Lewis) specializes in invoking (but not slavishly imitating) Harry Carney, whom he replaced in Mercer Ellington’s big band in 1974.

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