The Ellington 2023 conference ended with a late musical event with the Saury – Rousselet – Couderc Quintet at the Sunset jazz club in the centre of Paris. It was a ceIebration of the release of their CD Duke and Billy’s New Colors followed by a jamsession.

The core of the group is Julie Saury,drums, Bruno Rousselet, double bass and Frédéric Couderc on flute, saxophone and various wind instruments – members of Laurent Mignard’s Duke Orchestra since 20 years. Sébastien Giniaux guitar and cello. and Claude Égéa on trumpet joined them for the recording.

In a flowery promotional text, “Duke and Billy’s New Colors” is described as “a musical journey inviting the listener to rediscover legendary melodies sublimated by unexpected arrangements”. The listeners have to find out themselves if it is so.

Carl Woideck has agreed to tell us more about the album and on  some of songs therein. Here is what he has to say:

“The CD Duke and Billy’s New Colors is both reverent (respectful of Ellington and Strayhorn) and irreverent (willing to reinterpret Duke and Billy). Throughout the CD, longtime Duke Orchestra members Saury, Rousselet, and Couderc plus their friends show us new colors of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn.

A good example of the group’s musical reinterpretation is their arrangement of Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss.” Instead of performing it as a ballad, they play the song at a brisk tempo with changing meters that keep the listener off balance. During the piece’s B section, the group creatively inserts “Coltrane changes,” the term for the chord sequence that Coltrane employed in his piece “Giant Steps.” The group then settles into an uptempo swing for the solos. The effects that electric guitarist Sébastien Giniau uses for his solo take us into a 21st-century world.

One of the most unusual tracks on the CD is Julie Saury’s solo drum set interpretation of “Half the Fun” from Such Sweet Thunder. In the Duke Orchestra, she is often called upon to inhabit the role of Sam Woodyard and his driving rim shots on swing tunes (think Paul Gonsalves’s solo on the “Wailing Interval.”) Here, she takes Woodyard’s spacy drum intro and develops it into a mini drum concerto. Strikingly, the melody of “Half the Fun” is never stated.

Also unusual is “Heaven,” from the Second Sacred Concert. Like “Half the Fun,” we only hear a subset of the full ensemble; in this case, we have a duo played by Giniau (now on cello) and Couderc (cor anglais). Seldom is Ellingtonia treated in a Western classical music manner, but here that influence is very effective, as heard in the instrumentation and Giniau’s evident love of the Bach cello suites

There’s one more track that I’d like to highlight: “Satin Doll.” Proving the song to be eternally malleable, the group presents it in an infectious 12/8 groove with Couderc playing the song’s melody on a pivana, a flute made from a goat’s horn. But you don’t have to imagine how it sounds; the quartet can be seen playing their arrangement on YouTube. I highly recommend it.”

The CD is issued on Laurent Mignard’s new label Consequence and can be ordered from the website of Juste une Trace, an organisation that helps musicians and groups to reach out with their music. Buy it even if all the tracks of the CD are also available on YouTube.

Authors: Carl Woideck and Ulf Lundin

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