John DiMartino
Passion Flower
SSC4114
2020-04-10
Passion Flower  by John  DiMartino cover

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Track List

Johnny Come Lately - 5:17
Lush Life - 4:20
Rain Check - 4:19
Star-Crossed Lovers (Pretty Girl) - 4:38
Isfahan (Elf) - 6:57
Chelsea Bridge - 5:59
Daydream - 6:33
Passion Flower - 4:51
U.M.M.G. - 3:34
Blood Count - 3:37
Take The A Train - 4:15
A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing - 4:44
Absinthe (Lament For An Orchid) - 4:09
Lotus Blossom - 2:35

 

Musicians:
John DiMartino - piano
Eric Alexander - tenor saxophone
Boris Kozlov - bass
Lewis Nash - drums
Raul Midon - vocals

The Music of Billy Strayhorn, long thought of as a chapter within the Duke Ellington songbook, has become recognized as one of the most important bodies of work in 20th century American music. In Strayhornʼs short life time the greater part of recorded examples of his masterworks were by the Ellington Orchestra or groups led by players from that revered organization. In the half century since the death of the man affectionately known as Sweet Pea, many of his classic compositions have found their way into the mainstream jazz repertory via recordings by some of the genreʼs greatest players. Ellingtonʼs eulogistic 1968 LP And His Mother Called Him Bill brought into sharp focus the breadth of Strayhornʼswork. Now we can add John DiMartinoʼs uniquely personal interpretations to that illustrious list.Strayhornʼs music has been an essential part of Di Martinoʼs repertoire since the beginning of his forty-five year professional music career.He recalls,“My first encounter with Strayhornʼs music was through an older cousin who gave me a recording of Chet Baker and Russ Freemanʼs version of Lush Life and requested that I learn the tune.” Di Martino was just 15 years old at the time (ironically, Strayhornʼs age when he wrote the piece). John has been entranced with the composerʼs music ever since.The next exposure to Strayhornʼs music was hearing Grover Washingtonʼs recording of Passion Flower. John notes: “Itʼs a beautiful Bob James arrangement and probably the most infrequently played track on Groverʼs Mr. Magic CD. Pianist Bobby Tucker (accompanist to Billie Holiday & Billy Eckstine) was a mentor to me. He gave me the music to A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing. In recent years I have been performing Strayhornʼs music with Paquito DʼRivera. Executive producer Neville Grusd heard a concert we did at Flushing NewYork Town Hall which led to his interest in producing this recording.”Joining Di Martino are three of his fellow first call instrumentalists on the New York City jazz scene. The quartet kicks things off charging straight ahead on Johnny Come Lately. Di Martino says,“I often play this as an opening tune on gigs. ”Boris Kozlovʼs walking bass ushers in the song making way for extended soloing by Di Martino and Eric Alexander who then engage in a series of eight bar exchanges with Lewis Nash, whose solo takes things out. Vocalist Raul Midon is featured on Strayhornʼs poignant Lush Life. The song has fascinated Raul since first hearing it, like Di Martino, as a teenager. Rain Check is a swinging affair that features Nashʼs incomparable brushwork. Di Martinoʼs ethereal arrangement of the beautiful Star Crossed Lovers (from the Shakespearean Such Sweet Thunder Suite) reimagines the piece as a gentle bossanova, highlighting Johnʼs sublime lyricism. The tempo brightens for Isfahan, with Alexander and Kozlov both playing the melody, prefacing the solos with a climactic series of exchanges with Nash.The ballads Chelsea Bridge and Day Dream receive fresh treatments, the former played in a bolero tempo and latter as a waltz. A stirringperformance of Blood Count features an intimate piano/tenor sax duet. The iconic Take the A Train begins with Alexander and Nash in a musical conversation. John asked them “to channel two musicians busking in the NYC subway.” Passion Flower is a spirit driven homage to Billy Strayhornʼs legacy, celebrating music that will continue to inspire. —Russ Musto.Johnny Come Lately|Lush Life|Rain Check|Star-Crossed Lovers (Pretty Girl)|Isfahan (Elf)Chelsea Bridge|Daydream|Passion Flower|U.M.M.G. |Blood Count|Take The A Train|A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing|Absinthe (Lament For An Orchid)|Lotus Blossom

 

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