Thursday, February 17, 2011

Dan Block: From His World to Mine

Miles High Records
By Ric Bang
Buy CD: From His World to Mine

Dan Block is among the many reedmen who make New York City their home. Although not well known to the public outside that area, he's a respected member of the music world. During his career, Block has played with icons such as Charles Mingus, Gerry Mulligan, Toshiko Akiyoshi and Clark Terry, and in bands supporting myriad headliner vocalists.

Block also is one of the few reed players equally fluent on the clarinet.

He holds Duke Ellington in the highest regard, and this album is a compilation of tunes composed by Duke or his alter ego, Billy Strayhorn; they were featured in the band's repertoire from the 1930s through the ‘50s. You may not be familiar with most of the menu, but don’t let that dissuade you; these 14 tracks demonstrate Ellington’s genius as a composer and arranger. Although all the famous members of his bands have passed on, the artists used here have done a magnificent job of recreating the sound and "feel" of those groups.

Ellington was a "portrait" composer; many of his songs were done with a specific member of his band in mind. Bassist Oscar Pettiford was the catalyst for "New York City Blues"; cornetest Rex Stewart for "Morning Glory"; clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton for "Are You Stickin' "; tenor sax artist Jimmy Sears for "Suburbanite"; and so on. Duke’s association with the Cotton Club and a theatrical production called Jump For Joy also are acknowledged.

This album is a trip down Memory Lane, in that marvelous Ellington style, rendered faithfully in trio, quartet and septet formats by excellent musicians. If you’re a Duke fan, you’ll love Block's work here.

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