03.19.12Dan Block to Bruce Lindsay
Dan Block to Bruce Lindsay
"I see jazz as a continuum. There are certain people, especially in more recent history, who can see right through to the beginning of the music. Scott Robinson is one. When I play with Scott, we just get into each other’s brains. He has that kind of vision, not locked into one type of music."
01.16.11all-about-jazz CD Review
From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington
Dan Block | Mile High Music
By Edward Blanco
Bandleader and accomplished reed man Dan Block is an exponent of traditional and swing jazz, and pays homage to the music of Duke Ellington with From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington. The repertoire’s avoidance of the usual Ellington standards and classics makes this a unique project unlike other tributes to the master—there is no “Satin Doll," “Sophisticated Lady," “Caravan," or “Take the A Train"; instead, lesser-known but equally impressive tunes from the ‘30s through the ‘70s, with particular focus on the ‘40s. There are a couple of Billy Strayhorn compositions, with the 1945 opener, “Kissing Bug," arranged to feature a bit of Latin percussion from Renato Thoms.
Known as much for his stylish clarinet play as his tenor saxophone prowess, Block also employs alto saxophone, bass clarinet and basset horn on this date, affirming his notoriety as a multi-reed specialist. Block enlists a host of players for this tribute among them, pianist Mike Kanan, guitarist James Chirillo, vibraphonist Mark Sherman, drummer Brian Grice and bassist Lee Hudson. Block chose several pieces from the ‘40s, a period he sees as neglected, including the soft, haunting 1947 ballad “New York City Blues," and the brief but perky “Suburbanite," from the same year, here given new life with an up- tempo color.
“All Heart" and “Change My Ways" were two rather obscure Strayhorn ballads from the ‘50s, and here Block blends them into one nice “Ballad Medley," performing both on clarinet and alto saxophone. “Portrait of Bert Williams" is the disc’s only real blues, while “Rocks In My Bed" features a rhythm-based quartet with Chirillo, Hudson and cellist Pat O’Leary. “Mt. Harrissa" is one of the disc’s not-to-be-missed pieces—an intriguing version of “Take the ‘A’ Train," but with a three-tone substitution framed by Sherman’s superb vibraphone lines on both ends.
The swing comes shining through on the Jimmy McHugh-inspired “Cotton Club Stomp," a nod to Ellington’s tenure at the famed venue, while “Creole Blues" draws its inspiration from Ellington’s “Creole Rhapsody," from 1931, developing the main melody as the song’s centerpiece. Other uncommon and largely unfamiliar pieces featured anew here are “Old King Dooji," “Morning Glory" and “The Beautiful Indians." Reconnecting the Ellington magic of the past to today’s jazz world, From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington is more than just a fine tribute to one of the legends of jazz, it’s a spotlight on Ellington’s hidden musical wonders brought, back to life through Block’s talents and musicianship.
Track Listing: Kissing Bug; New York City Blues; Old King Dooji; Morning Glory; Are You Stickin’?; The Beautiful Indians; Suburbanite; Ballad Medley (All Heart / Change My Ways); Portrait of Bert Williams; Mt Harrissa; Creole Blues; Cotton Club Stomp; Rocks in my Bed; Second Line.
Personnel: Dan Block: clarinet, bass clarinet, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Mike Kanan: piano; Lee Hudson: bass; James Chirillo: guitar; Brian Grice: drums; Mark Sherman: vibes (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Renato Thoms: percussion (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Pat O’Leary: cello (6, 9, 13).
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12.30.10Frank Wess Quote
“Dan Block always sounds good whatever the call. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him in jam sessions and have worked with him as a member of Jerry Dodgion’s “Joy of Sax" and he has performed with my nonet at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola Room. He’s always on the case. Please don’t miss this opportunity to enjoy Dan Block."
12.30.10Michael Feinstein Quote
It takes a singular talent to be able to simultaneously honor tradition and find new expression in a classic body of work. Dan Block has the blessing of being able to draw upon myriad musical styles to perform wonders with these rare Ellington compositions. His fluidity and incredible tone, coupled with a 21st century approach make those among the most unique Ellington performances I have ever experienced"
12.30.10From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington Dan Block | Miles High Records (2010)
All About Jazz
Track Listing: Kissing Bug; New York City Blues; Old King Dooji; Morning Glory; Are You Stickin'?; The Beautiful Indians; Suburbanite; Ballad Medley (All Heart / Change My Ways); Portrait of Bert Williams; Mt Harrissa; Creole Blues; Cotton Club Stomp; Rocks in my Bed; Second Line.
Personnel: Dan Block: clarinet, bass clarinet, Eb clarinet, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone; Mike Kanan: piano; Lee Hudson: bass; James Chirillo: guitar; Brian Grice: drums; Mark Sherman: vibes (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Renato Thoms: percussion (1, 2, 5, 10, 14); Pat O'Leary: cello (6, 9, 13).
Dan Block is an exceptionally talented reed player, a stylish arranger and composer, a skilful bandleader and a valued sideman. He's worked with Michael Feinstein, Rosemary Clooney and Clark Terry, among others, and has also performed for Broadway shows and Hollywood movies, but he has never achieved the widespread recognition his talent deserves. From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington should change that. It is, quite simply, gorgeous.
Block has drawn together a fascinating collection of Ellington tunes, avoiding the routinely reworked in favor of some lesser-known, but still beautiful, compositions. The selection covers a period from the early '30s to the '70s, with the majority of the tunes coming from the '40s. Block's arrangements add some contemporary twists to the songs—mostly Ellington compositions, plus three by Billy Strayhorn—while his choice of musicians is also on the money. The interplay between the various combinations is a joy and Block perfectly matches instrumental lineups to the moods and styles of his chosen tunes.
In his fascinating sleeve notes Block writes fondly of the late '40s, a "somewhat neglected" period from which he takes five or six tunes. They include the lovely Strayhorn ballad, "Change My Ways," which Block combines with another Strayhorn composition, 1957's "All Heart," played as a duet with pianist Mike Kanan. The third Strayhorn tune, 1945's "Kissing Bug," is a cheery, up-tempo, number which benefits from some swinging drums and percussion from Brian Grice and Renato Thoms.
The remaining tunes demonstrate Ellington's masterful abilities as a composer and showcase Block and his fellow musicians' undoubted qualities as players. Block's superb clarinet playing is highlighted on the amusing, sparky and decidedly upbeat "Old King Dooji," his performance lyrical and melodic, while James Chirillo's deft and swinging acoustic guitar playing on "Portrait of Bert Williams" is a delight.
"Mt Harrissa" is, perhaps, the least Ellingtonian arrangement of the set. Originally part of Ellington's "Far East Suite," Block invests it with a samba rhythm, giving his own tenor saxophone playing a touch of Stan Getz and sharing the melody with Mark Sherman's crystal-clear, sparkling, vibes. The list could go on, for there isn't a weak spot to be found.
From His World To Mine: Dan Block Plays The Music Of Duke Ellington may not be the slickest album title ever created, but every other aspect of this recording is a joy. Block's song choices give the spotlight to some lesser-known Ellington tunes, and his arrangements ensure that they have a modern sound while still remaining true to the spirit of the originals. The musicianship of Block and his fellow artists has warmth as well as technical skill, creating a superbly crafted, feel-good, album on every level.
12.30.10A BLOCK PARTY! (Dec. 12, 2010)
For some readers, a block party may summon up images of neighbors having a good time in the street, eating barbecue and drinking beer, the children running around, perhaps fireworks . . .
That sounds fine to me, but somewhat complicated. My idea of a Block Party is any place where Dan Block plays. In this case, it was the Brooklyn Lyceum last Sunday night, December 12, 2010.
Although many listeners have associated Dan with older Jazz styles, his range goes far beyond the Ben Pollack BASHFUL BABY or the Basie LOUISIANA. He always creates splendid melodies, and he always swings — but occasionally we get to hear his questing spirit, which is a rewarding thing. It happened during the second set at the Lyceum: where he was joined by vibraphonist Mark Sherman, guitarist James Chirillo, pianist Michael Kanan (three colleagues on his superb new CD of Ellington / Strayhorn music, FROM HIS WORLD TO MINE), trombonist Ryan Keberle, bassist Jennifer Vincent, and ex-Ellingtonian drummer Steve Little. ( I hadn’t heard either Ryan or Jennifer before, and I was profoundly impressed. Listen for yourself.)
Because the audience was congenial — many friends of the players filling the room — Dan chose to have “an open rehearsal" on an original song of his, later explained as OUT OF TOUCH (not a reference to the moody piece we heard unforld in front of us):