Dial and Oatts/RichDerosa/ The WDR Big Band – Rediscovered Ellington – New Takes on Duke’s rare and unheard Music
(Zoho ZM 201707. CD Review by Frank Griffith)
Rediscovered Ellington is a collection of mostly unheard music of Duke Ellington giving a glimmering yet pensive sound and production. The musical triumvirate of pianist Gary Dial, saxophonist/flautist Dick Oatts and arranger, Rich Derosa unearthed these compositions from obscurity, shaping them with colourful, immaculate and refreshing arrangements rendering Ellington anew. They commented: “…to continue his legacy, we resurrected his pieces with our perspective through personalised arrangements.” Most of these renditions showcase how great music can transform into something modern and forward-looking while maintaining the original essence of its composer.
Dial and Oatts contribute potent and original solos throughout all the nine pieces. Oatts’ alto saxophone brims with soulfulness on Let The Zoomers Roll as does his lyrical and richly-toned flute outing on Just A Gentle Word From You Will Do. Pianist, Dial shines with his elegant but blues-drenched opening choruses before the melody of Kiki enters. Similarly, John Marshall’s trumpet solo on the same tune scores with his full bodied, burnished sound bringing a majestic ardour to the piece that it richly deserves. Not to be outdone, bassist John Goldsby demonstrates his Paul Chambers-like melodicism on his solo sandwiched by by a swinging ensemble shout ensemble and a saxophone soli.
The Cologne-based WDR Big Band is precise, dynamically expansive and capable of negotiating through the most complex charts with ease. The CD opens with Hey Baby which was also recorded in 1956 with Rosemary Clooney on the Blue Rose album. Oatts is “first outta the blocks” with a riveting solo, followed by tenorist Paul Heller then the alto of John Horlen both of whom give the veteran Oatts a run for his money.
The WDR band’s largest contribution is largely down to DeRosa’s arrangements and direction. These result in a compelling interaction between the three forces present here. This interaction is a crucial component in music which is symphonic to some extent in shape and stucture, fully responsive to the subtleties of the soloists’ phrasing throughout these timeless pieces.
DeRosa, who also arranged and conducted bassist Ron Carter’s 2015 CD, My Personal Songbook for the WDR Big Band (REVIEWED HERE), is no stranger to this role. He also arranged two previous recordings for Dial and Oatts in 1990 and 1993 as well as had two charts recorded by the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra in 1985 (Dearly Beloved and Alone Together). This clearly demonstrates his versatility, vision and craft in large ensemble writing. He believes that Rediscoverd Ellington “should be shared with all college students in a workshop and concert settings. This project shows what can be done with seemingly ‘old’ music. It will have a professional life but it can also continue to inspire our newest upcoming professional musicians.”
Plaudits and kudos should go to Dial, Oatts, DeRosa and The WDR big band for their passion, rigour and originality devoted to this remarkable project.
Frank Griffith will be director/soloist with the Rebel Yell Jazz Orchestra, Spice of Life, 17 January.