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Promenade With Duke (1992)

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Michel Petrucciani

In an interview, Michel Petrucciani said "...my biggest inspiration is Duke Ellington, because in my very early age he gave the inspiration to play the piano." For Promenade with Duke Petrucciani not only honors music Ellington composed, but music with which he was associated. There are some Billy Strayhorn pieces and other songs where Ellington's compositional contributions are arguably marginal. That the album offers an adventure in harmony is predicted by the first cut, "Caravan." Stretching over seven minutes in length, it explores, in-depth, virtually every nuance of this 1936 hit which Ellington wrote with trombonist Juan Tizol. Bold approaches to harmonies notwithstanding, Petrucciani does not desert his basic let-it-all-hang-out romanticism which he celebrates on "Lush Life." He emphasizes feelings of sentimentality in his rendition of "In a Sentimental Mood." His interpretation is brooding and introspective, but every now and then some bright chords hold out the hope that the somber climate may be passing. Petrucciani is a master at clarifying the mood he is trying to create with his piano. Not all the music on the album is familiar Ellington, as shown in the presence of two rarely performed pieces, "Hidden Joy" and "One Night in the Hotel." It is on the well-known "Take the 'A' Train," however, that Petrucciani expresses best the joy he experiences with Ellington's music and the influence it has had on him. His is a rousing, twisting rendition of the Duke's signature tune. Promenade with Duke is one of the more innovative and stimulating sets of solo piano performances of Ellington's music on disc. ~ Dave Nathan