Half Notes: John Brown Trio – Dancing with Duke (2011)

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Dancing with Duke, the second album as a leader from North Carolina bassist John Brown (Nnenna Freelon), follows the thematic pattern established by his well-received initial recording — a tribute to Art Blakey. But this homage to Ellington explores more interesting territory, in that Blakey’s music has always been associated with a gripping, meat-off-the-bone groove. Ellington’s work, unfortunately, can sometimes be confused in the popular consciousness with so-called swing music. That is, these blandly homogeneous, white-suited snoozers. Instead, Brown’s trio — which includes Cyrus Chestnut on piano and the New Orleans drumming sensation Adonis Rose — come charging out on this Brown Boulevard Records release with series of thrummingly blues-filled interpretations, only stopping toward the end for a trio medley of tangy-sweet ballads. Chestnut then brilliantly references Bobby Timmons’ fonky delight “Dat Dere” as part of “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” the oh-so expected — yet, in this context, completely unexpected — closer.

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‘Half Notes’ are quick-take thoughts on music from Something Else! Reviews, presented whenever the mood strikes us.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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