Preeminent jazz composer/bassist William Parker has been working with large ensembles from the very beginning of his career as leader in the mid ’70s. His Essence of Ellington project is the latest captivating manifestation of his orchestral concepts, following the extraordinary Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield project, presented on record with the acclaimed 2010 release I Plan To Stay A Believer (AUM 62).
This project interprets selections from the vast Duke Ellington songbook and presents new original compositions inspired by the essence of Ellington. The worldwide debut took place in Milan this past February; that performance and recording thereof turned out so tremendously that William and AUM decided it needed to be released as soon as possible. That concert, with more than two hours of transformative exuberance and tenderness, is presented here in its entirety. Highlights include “In a Sentimental Mood,” presented in duet by Dave Burrell & Darius Jones, updating the Ellington & Coltrane classic recording. “Caravan” is introduced with an extended alto solo by Rob Brown; when the full orchestra hits it’s immediately evident that this tune has not been performed better than this, ever. And, of course, each of Parker’s original compositions and performances thereof (there are four of them here).