Personnel: Franco D'Andrea (piano).
Liner Note Authors: Franco D'Andrea; Aaron Goldberg; Paolo Piangiarelli.
Recording information: Mu Rec Studio, Milan, Italy (04/02/2001-04/04/2001).
Photographer: Alessandro Lo Surdo.
Arranger: Franco D'Andrea.
Franco d'Andrea has become one of producer Paolo Piangiarelli's favorite pianists with good reason; d'Andrea's consistently inventive approach to his instrument, his formidable chops, and his incredible ear make the veteran among the top in his field. This fifth volume of the pianist's Solo series is a tribute to Duke Ellington, with selections primarily from the '20s through the early '40s. Even though Ellington fans often referred to the maestro's concert medleys of his most popular tunes as "dread medleys," this is hardly the case with d'Andrea's use of this form. Instead, he went into the studio without a specific play list in mind, letting the music flow spontaneously, so a reserved ballad interpretation of "Take the 'A'' Train" spins into a rapid-fire "Perdido." His longer medleys also work equally well. "Caravan" is almost reminiscent of the late Jaki Byard's style, with an unconventional arrangement that starts in the middle of the theme and incorporates unusual chord substitutions with a touch of playfulness. "Prelude to a Kiss" begins somewhat ominously and retains a degree of mystery instead of taking the more straightforward, typically lush route. "Satin Doll" is frequently dismissed by Ellington fans as an overly popular work that has little potential; d'Andrea's adventurous spirit rejuvenates this jazz classic with a jovial performance. This is easily one of the most impressive salutes to Duke Ellington by a solo pianist that you could ever run across. ~ Ken Dryden