Friday, October 22, 2010

George Duke: In a Mellow Tone (2006)

Straightforward small combo jazz (basically an electric/acoustic piano trio with occasional guitar, reeds and percussion) of a kind that George Duke’s detractors say he has long since abandoned, In a Mellow Tone is indubitably a mainstream jazz record with little adventurous spirit and a sound that occasionally even verges on the easy listening horrors of smooth jazz.
However, as such albums go, it’s more than pleasant, with Duke’s underrated piano and Fender Rhodes technique driving the songs. As the Duke Ellington-derived title track suggests, this is a low-key effort that disdains showboating solos or flashy rhythmic changes, and its equal split between familiar standards like “Never Will I Marry” and mellow, melodic Duke originals holds few surprises. The one inarguable flaw is that Duke’s vocals, never his strong suit, verge from forgettable to intrusive on their handful of tracks.
Aside from that, at least two-thirds of In a Mellow Tone is relaxed, but never soporific, mood music. Though that may seem to be damning with faint praise to the jazz faithful who remember Duke’s far more passionate early work, In a Mellow Tone largely fulfills the aesthetic demands it set out for itself.
1 In A Mellow Tone
2 For All We Know
3 Never Will I Marry
4 Spring Is Here
5 Sweet Baby
6 Down The Road
7 So Many Stars
8 So I’ll Pretend
9 Quiet Fire
10 Just Because
11 I Loves You Porgy
George Duke - piano , vocal
Brian Bromberg – bass
Terri Lyne Carrington – drums
Mike Miller – acoustic guitad
Airto Moreira – percussion
Manyungo Jackson – percussion
Ray Fuller – electric guitar
Everette Harp – saxes
Dennis Farias – flugelhorn , trumpet
In a Mellow Tone
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