Planet D Nonet, Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington Review
by Stamish Malcuss
Planet D Nonet is releasing an album celebrating the music of Duke Ellington called Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington. Planet D Nonet is a tight knit-unit led by percussionist/Detroit music champion RJ Spangler and ace trumpeter James O’Donnell. For Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington, they concentrated on later Ellington material. Spangler explains, “I felt the last years of Duke’s career were very creative and offered little-known gems for us to tackle.” The majority of the material is from 1956 through 1963.
“Spacemen” opens the album with a stunning display of ensemble playing and beautiful solos. The song is a fun ride for both performers and listeners based on rhythm changes. The soloists are Charlie Miller (trumpet), Alex Harding (baritone saxophone), Tbone Paxton (trombone), Alex Colista (alto saxophone), Michael Zaporski (piano), Trevor Lamb (string bass), and Sean Perlmutter (drums). Each soloist hits hard and gets right to the point with elegant solo lines influenced by the late 50s swing era and today’s post-bop jazz language.
“U.M.M.G” has that sophistication and buzz that makes Ellington’s music so captivating. The ensemble is constantly locked in and swinging. The arrangement has counterpoint, band hits, and flowing backing figures to support the soloist. The music is active but always clear, creating an ecstasy of swing and style. The solos are well-conceived and deliver a communicative element that raises the musical bar. The soloists are Miller on trumpet and Goode Wyche III on baritone saxophone.
Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington is a moving collection of Ellington material. The ensemble pays particular attention to the jazz aesthetics of Ellington’s style. The ensemble has plenty of technical facilities to articulate Ellington’s sonic palette through well-known tunes and some lesser-known gems. For that reason alone, Blues To Be There, A Salute To Duke Ellington is of value. Shedding new light on classic tunes you will want to get to know.