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A winning combination,
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This review is from: Nutcracker Suites - Tchaikovsky / Duke Ellington & Billy Strayhorn (Audio CD)
Award winning New York based conductor Steven Richman has done it again with the winning combination of Tchaikovsky and Ellington/Strayhorn on the one album. Having recorded impressive recreations of such musical icons as Gershwin/Grofe/Whiteman and Miles Davis/Gil Evans, the Ellington/Strayhorn treatment of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite was a logical next step.
Few musicians can handle the demands of both classical and big band jazz conducting with such facility as does Steven Richman. His sprightly account of Tchaikovsky's original is as good as any of the several notable versions I own, and it provides the introductory context for the prime source of interest, namely a recreation of the Ellington/Strayhorn 1960 recording which has not been revisited in its entirety since then.
I must admit I was a trifle apprehensive at how this would work out. As a long time collector of Ellingtonia, I realise how difficult it has been to recreate this band's distinctive soundworld, based as it was on the individual talents of star sidemen like Hodges, Carney, Gonsalves, Hamilton, Nance, Woodman, etc. However, Richman's all star line-up proves more than equal to the challenge. While not slavishly copying the original, the band and soloists provide an authentic ducal flavour, enhanced by excellent sound quality. Lew Tabackin channels Paul Gonsalves particularly well, as does Bill Easley in the case of Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet. Victor Lewis does a sterling job on percussion and is superior in my opinion to Ellington's Sam Woodyard. An honourable mention must go to Hassan Shakur on bass, his name being new to me. But he adds a solid pulse to the band which swings from start to finish and sounds fully at home with the challenging charts. Interestingly, the individual tracks clock in at almost identical times to the original album.
Steven Richman, for all his impressive achievements, as outlined in the attractive booklet (which includes perceptive commentary from noted author Will Friedwald) is a name that deserves much wider recognition in the world of music, both jazz and classical. Meanwhile I would urge those who haven't already purchased the rest of Steven's extensive catalogue to check it out.