Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Warren Wolf: My Albums of the Week #15

I would consider myself an “albums guy” and my taste in music is very varied. In this new feature, I list the albums that I listened to most intensely during the week. The list will include albums old and new, and the number of albums listened to every week will most likely vary on a week-to-week basis.

 

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
The Nutcracker Suite
(Columbia, 1960)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – Overture / 2 – Toot Toot Tootie Toot (Dance of the Reed-Pipes) / 3 – Peanut Brittle Brigade (March) / 4 – Sugar Rum Cherry (Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy) / 5 – Entr’acte / 6 – The Volga Vouty (Russian Dance) / 7 – Chinoiserie (Chinese Dance) / 8 – Danse of the Floreadores (Waltz of the Flowers) / 9 – Arabesque Cookie (Arabian Dance)

Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn take turns at reinventing movements from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite in the key of jazz. The end result positively swings and glows with the elegance, creativity, musicianship and good humor that Ellington’s Orchestra was known for. A somewhat overlooked part of Ellington’s oeuvre after the sensational success at the 1957 Newport Jazz Festival, well worth rediscovering.

 

Dave Brubeck
A Dave Brubeck Christmas
(Telarc, 1996)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – “Homecoming” Jingle Bells / 2 – Santa Claus Is Coming to Town / 3 – Joy to the World / 4 – Away in a Manger / 5 – Winter Wonderland / 6 – O Little Town of Bethlehem / 7 – What Child Is This? (Greensleeves) / 8 – To Us Is Given / 9 – O Tannenbaum / 10 – Silent Night / 11 – Cantos para Pedir las Posadas / 12 – Run, Run, Run to Bethlehem / 13 – “Farewell” Jingle Bells / 14 – The Christmas Song

Dave Brubeck was a master of solo piano and a pioneer of the form, having been one of the first major artists to release full-length solo piano albums in the ’50s. This is a showcase for his distinctive piano playing style, rich of varied influences and ranging from introspective through virtuosic. It is far more than a mere collection of covers of Christmas carols and came at the tail-end of a landmark year for the then-veteran Brubeck, who received a Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY in 1996.

 

Warren Wolf
Christmas Vibes
(Mack Avenue, 2020)

TRACKLIST (favorite tracks underlined): 1 – O Christmas Tree / 2 – Do You Hear What I Hear? / 3 – Skating / 4 – Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy / 5 – Winter Wonderland / 6 – Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas / 7 – Sweet Little Jesus Boy / 8 – Christmas Time Is Here / 9 – Happy Xmas (War Is Over) / 10 – You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch / 11 – Sleigh Ride / 12 – This Christmas / 13 – Wake Up Little Kids It’s Christmas

Whether you’re a fan of Christmas music or not, chances are you’ll appreciate the groove and swing of Warren Wolf’s full-length holiday-themed album, featuring covers and one original of his own. Wolf is one of the best interpreters of today’s most acclaimed vibraphonists and it’s no surprise that the most standout tracks are those that feature his instrument of choice front and center. However, there are a couple of notable vocal numbers in there as well, including a fun take on “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

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