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Various Artists: Goin’ Home…Duke Ellington: A Benefit for the Duke Ellington Foundation

At its best, Goin’ Home…Duke Ellington (Over the Edge/Lightyear 54461-2; 67:50) is an amazing, pitch-perfect tribute, with an all-star cast offering explosive big-band efforts and shiver-inducing vocal interpretations. However, this somewhat lengthy album (with proceeds benefiting the Duke Ellington Foundation) also includes a number of interesting experiments, some of which succeed with eloquent insight, and others of which merely puzzle.

The high-points here are extremely high, with a riotous big-band tribute “Goin’ Home” leading the way in classic Duke style: big swinging horns, train noises and incomparable vocalese from Jon Hendricks, Al Jarreau and Take 6. An “Ellington Medley” likewise brings a dream trio of interpreters together: Jonathan Butler lends a beautiful yearning to a softly gliding “Day Dream,” Dianne Reeves gives a heart-rending read to “I Didn’t Know About You” and Jeffrey Osborne embraces a lightly Brazil-beat take on “Prelude to a Kiss.” Odder choices include a slowed, synthy “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” with Nancy Wilson’s dusky, sad vocal, and a slickened, contemporized “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” which is interesting and well executed if not entirely pleasing. Still, Ellington would doubtlessly admire the invention of this high-energy tribute effort.

Originally Published