Duke Ellington Piano Solos

Roberts’ three giants of Alone With Three Giants are fellow pianists Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk, and his choices among their compositions are irreproachable. But his playing is peculiarly joyless and often pedantic, as though he were first discovering the music. You get the feeling he’s aiming for authenticity, but he never gets inside the pieces. His keyboard touch has an admirable clarity, but his performances are so reverent and his approach to stride rhythms so heavy-handed that the recital soon bogs down into a startlingly dispassionate exercise. (The last page of the liner notes is missing, typical of so many shoddy productions on this label.) By contrast, Roland Hanna is a veteran pianist who seems to get inside Ellington’s skin on Duke Ellington Piano Solos. In recent years his music has reached a new plateau, and his new interpretations of Ellington are those of an artist who has lived with and thought deeply about the master’s music. Hanna’s performances are concise and wasteless; his touch is warm, his harmonies lavish but never showy. On ”Portrait of Bert Williams,” he manages to suggest precisely that quality of comic resignation that makes Ellington’s evocation of Williams (a great vaudeville star) so acute; on ”Single Petal of a Rose” and ”Reflections in D” he conveys Ellington’s introspective style and at the same time makes it personal. He and Roberts duplicate only one piece (”Solitude”), yet a comparison between the two albums virtually defines ing superficial homage and an older one who has immersed himself in the music’s core. Roberts: C+ Hanna: A

Duke Ellington Piano Solos
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