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John Pizzarelli: Rockin’ in Rhythm: A Duke Ellington Tribute

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Perhaps it’s because the album’s strengths are so explicit that its weaknesses seem equally pronounced. Let’s start with the pluses. First, there’s the presence of the Swing Seven horns, arranged by Don Sebesky on seven tracks, including a sizzling “C Jam Blues” and a freewheeling combo of “Cottontail” and “Rockin’ in Rhythm.” Then there’s an intriguingly subdued treatment of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” that seems lifted from the pages of an F. Scott Fitzgerald jazz-age tale.

There’s also an “I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” that suggests bruised reverie rather than battered capitulation. And, showing solo Pizzarelli to superb advantage, there’s a tranquil rendering of “Just Squeeze Me” that echoes Tal Farlow.

But the pièce de résistance, the track that leaves all others in the dust, is a rollicking rendition of “Perdido,” adapted from Ellington’s version on his Piano in the Background album, with Pizzarelli, Kurt Elling and Jessica Molaskey having a wail of a time as a hard-boppin’, latter-day Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. Such dazzle can’t help but leave listeners wanting when Pizzarelli settles in with his quartet mates-bassist (and brother) Martin Pizzarelli, drummer Tony Tedesco and pianist Larry Fuller-for eminently charming but comparatively underwhelming readings of “All Too Soon,” “Love Scene” and “Solitude.”

Originally Published