Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Jazz bassist John Brown
I owe you a big apology, John. When I put together my top 10 jazz albums of 2011 list, I left off “Dancing with Duke an Homage to Duke Ellington”. I played the album all last week. I hate I didn’t include it. It’s an outstanding shot-out to Ellington. Your trio piano player Cyrus Chestnut and drummer Adonis Rose did justice to the nine Ellington songs you picked.

 I applaud you for not getting carried away with Ellington’s work. I’m sure playing it straight was challenging enough. Ellington’s music was perfect. Adonis and Cyrus are tasteful dudes, and they never toyed with Ellington’s work.

 Cyrus’s soloing on “Pie Eye’s Blues,” “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear from Me,” and “I Got it Bad(And That Ain’t Good) was some of his best work to date. 

 Cyrus has always been my man. I have all his albums on Atlantic Records. Cyrus could do no wrong in my eye. “Revelation,” “The Dark Before the Dawn,” and “Soul Food” should be considered classics. But, since Cyrus left Atlantic, Cyrus has slipped some. 

Cyrus's output has been hit or miss, and I questioned if Cyrus had used up his mojo. His last album ,"Journeys," which I adored proved Cyrus still has the goods. I never gave up on him. 

 On “Dancing with Duke,” Cyrus plays so much piano I wondered if he had more than two hands and ten fingers, given the flurry of notes he played on “In a Mellow Tone”. You Know, John, I wouldn’t be surprised if some people thought Cyrus was the leader of your trio. His presence was that strong. 

John, last year I reviewed about 200 jazz albums. It was hard picking my ten favorite. I’ve been doing it for 20 years now, and I never look forward to it. 

 “Dancing with Duke” was a treat. Ellington would’ve enjoyed it, and put it on whenever his buddies Johnny Hodges and Billy Strayhorn visited. If Ellington was around today, and still running his orchestra you’d be on the payroll. 

 Like Ellington’s bass player Jimmy Blanton, you have blue collar chops. Cyrus and Adonis sounded grand because you’re backing them. Putting out “Dancing with Duke” was a swell way to honor of Ellington's music. Forgive me for overlooking it.
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