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Jan Lundgren: Something to Live For

“Reminiscences of a Duke,” the highlight of this tribute to Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, is a triumph for Lundgren and the 63-year-old Swedish composer Magnus Linden. Throughout the album, Lundgren plays with his usual clarity of touch and conception. Meeting considerable challenges offered by Linden in the composer’s 15-minute suite, he surpasses himself.

Building on hints at themes abstracted from Ellington tunes, Linden uses strings, woodwinds and French horn for settings that require the pianist’s formidable technical command and stimulate his inventiveness. Linden manages to evoke Ellington’s music, provide ideal settings for Lundgren and demonstrate virtuosity in orchestration. Some of his writing is reminiscent of Charles Ives (in the movement titled “Mood”) and Eddie Sauter (“Pace”), but it has a pungent modernity all its own. His work is all the more impressive because Linden accomplishes impressive depth and texture using only 12 pieces, demonstrating a masterful command of resources.

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