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Big Band De Lausanne: Duke Ellington’s Sacred Music

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Outside of Ellington’s three original concerts, as recently reissued on RCA’s mammoth boxed set, this is probably the only recording that brings together so many of the composer’s devotional pieces in one place. For this project, conductor Roby Seidel not only obtained copies of the original Ellington scores, but also the services of such American ringers as trumpeter Jon Faddis, drummer Adam Nussbaum and vocalists Michelle Hendricks and Allan Harris. They all appear on this March 29, 1998, concert recording with Seidel’s all-Swiss eight-voice choir and big band at the Lugano Cathedral.

“In the Beginning God” introduces baritonist Maurice Magnoni in Harry Carney’s expository role, followed by Harris’ reading of the familiar litany, tenorman Yvan Ischer’s swinging Gonsalves-like solo and Faddis’ culminating ride-out. After two numbers featuring the choir and Harris, Hendricks appears with pianist Patrick Muller, trombonist Vincent Lachat and altoman Stefano Saccon on the brightly paced “Tell Me It’s the Truth.” Saccon blossoms in the Hodges mode on the Hendricks/Harris-dominated “Heaven,” while Magnoni returns for a solo feature on “Praise God,” using the rich tone and circular breathing technique that his idol introduced to jazz. Closing the first disc are Faddis’ Cootie Williams-inspired growl solo on “The Shepherd” and the swinging “David Danced,” which showcases all of the singers and Nussbaum.

Harris and Hendricks continue with “Somethin’ Bout Believing,” “Come Sunday” and “My Love,” but the real cookers on disc two are the multitempoed “Freedom,” which opens up for several heated horn solos, and the closing “Praise God and Dance,” a way up outing for, among others, Faddis in his Cat hat.