Planet D Nonet, Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington Review
Planet D Nonet Reignites Duke Ellington’s Magic: An In-depth Review of Blues To Be There
by Nolan DeBuke
Planet D Nonet’s tribute to the inimitable Duke Ellington, Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington, is a deeply swinging, loving homage to one of jazz’s all-time greats. The Nonet is tuned to the pitch of Ellington, and under the guidance of percussionist RJ Spangler and trumpeter James O’Donnell, they bring us an incredibly uplifting and illuminating set of sixteen compositions.
The ensemble has managed to meticulously capture the spirit of Ellington’s most creative phase from the late ’50s through the early ’60s. This was a pivotal era for Duke, filled with artistic resurgence, iconic works, and undying enthusiasm for reinvention.
The album, carefully curated by Spangler and O’Donnell, highlights a unified band that honors the Duke’s legacy with impressive proficiency and unfettered energy. Whether it’s the swing era stalwarts or those leaning towards hard bop, each musician has found their place within Ellington’s timeless compositions.
“Spacemen,” the album’s opening track, sets the tone with its well-crafted solos that wind around each other in an intricate dance. There’s an effervescence to the ensemble’s interpretation that truly captures the Duke’s ‘blast-off’ era, breathing fresh life into his legacy.
Listening to the familiar melody of “Take The A Train” under James O’Donnell’s soulful voice feels like a welcome friend arriving at a reunion party – nostalgic yet refreshing in the context of the ensemble’s interpretation. “U.M.M.G,” a Strayhorn composition, accentuates the seamless blend between the ensemble’s varied musical perspectives, from Charlie Miller’s trumpet solo to the lush resonance of Goode Wyche III’s baritone sax.
Each track is thoughtfully arranged, underscoring the essence of Ellington’s work while highlighting the Nonet’s individual strengths. In “Tigress,” for instance, Christopher Tabaczynski’s tenor sax and Alex Colista’s soprano sax take flight, underpinned by Spangler’s rhythmic drive, bringing a unique color to Strayhorn’s composition.
To be noticed are the rich contributions from the guest artists. Alex Harding’s baritone saxophone work and Ryan Bills’ tenor saxophone add layers of depth and complexity to the ensemble’s sound, like a well-seasoned dish from my kitchen where each ingredient enhances the others.
The closing track, “VIP’s Boogie/Jam with Sam,” is an exciting cacophony of solos, with everyone from Goode Wyche III to Michael Zaporski, James O’Donnell, and more getting a chance to shine. It is a joyful exclamation mark on an album brimming with soul and craftsmanship.
All in all, Planet D Nonet’s Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington offers an immersive journey into Ellington’s timeless compositions. It serves as a unifying effort from a band made up of diverse musical perspectives, ultimately bringing out the essence of Duke Ellington’s music, which remains a keystone of American culture.
If this culinary enthusiast were to describe it, Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington would be a delicious jambalaya – rich in flavor, packed with choice ingredients, and masterfully blended to pay homage to a recipe handed down by one of jazz’s greatest chefs, Duke Ellington. It leaves one satisfied yet eagerly awaiting the next meal.