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Dr. John: Duke Elegant

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Ellingtonia has been preserved by repertoire bands, celebrated by hipsters and hacks, interpreted by high school marching bands and New Orleans brass bands, schmaltzified by lounge singers and crooners, deconstructed by avant gardists and deified by classicists. But never has the Ellington legacy been fonkified to the degree that Dr. John does it up on this earthy Blue Note debut which puts the ooh-poo-pah-doo in Duke.

Granted, Ellington scholars and archivists will not appreciate the good doctor’s gravel-voiced exhortation to “Boogie now!” on his slamming backbeat rendition of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” They may consider a Meters-styled remake of “Perdido” ill advised and might not approve of his unabashed N’awlins party-time treatment of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”-more Smiley Lewis than Duke. But they just might be charmed by his trademark piano tinkling on “Solitude” and the rare Ellington instrumental “Flaming Sword,” as much a tribute to Tuts Washington, Professor Longhair, Champion Jack Dupree and James Booker as it is to Duke himself.

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