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What is the point of this album?
on 31 May 2014
Dr.John (whose earlier work I enjoy for its originality) might have derived some therapeutic satisfaction from trying to play Ellington's music, but he should have kept it to his own living room. Ellington first wrote these pieces as instrumental numbers, and the words were added later by other hands. He had a fully developed sense of writing for large numbers of individual musicians (not just any old band) and brought the best out of them by blending their personalities into his harmonic, melodic, rhythmic and timbral language.
Dr.John destroys any sense of subtlety these tunes might have had by the turgid and mechanical rhythm he superimposes, making any real rhythmic momentum impossible. His singing, while not without conviction, is far too mannered and risks becoming a caricature of itself.
For superior vocal versions of some of these songs, you could do worse than Billie Holiday ("Soliude", "Do nothing till you hear from me"), Ivie Anderson ("It don't mean a thing"), Lambert Hendricks and Ross ("Caravan") or Ella Fitzgerald ("Perdido").