Santa Fe. I usually pass through there when I'm done hiking around the red rock country of the Colorado Plateau. Interesting place, very much into the arts like sister city Taos to the north…or at least, that was the way of things over a decade ago. After a succession of corporatists in the White House, God only know what's what now with any locale, but, on evidence of this disc alone, the place hasn't given up the ghost. I'll warn, though, that Duke at the Roadhouse: Live in Santa Fe is not going to be quite what you're expecting…no matter what you're expecting. The elements in this often stormy presentation are Duke Ellington (galactic level musical genius), Eddie Daniels (famed winds wielder), Roger Kellaway (keyboards wizard), and a bit of James Holland (cello) where needed, but the emphasis is on a cultural redefinition of the roadhouse.
Even I was a bit shocked when, after mellow opening quotes, Kellaway grabbed I'm Beginning to See the Light and threw it to the floor for a joyous Texas chicken-wire death match, Daniels joining in the fray, tag-teaming with the pianist to toss the Duke's famed number from pillar to post. Even the appreciative crowd wasn't quite sure what to make of it, the over-polite applause giving their dazed reaction away, but I was grinning like a monkey, ear to ear. Good thing I wasn't in the hall, 'cause I'd have been laughing like a hyena at the crowd while marveling at the surfeit of daring and abstractions erupting like a series of volcanos all over the joint.
I have quite a few LPs with Kellaway in my collection, solo and in ensemble, or just plain sitting in as a sessioneer, some I'm enamored with, others I just dig for various reasons, but I've never heard him quite this unleashed, so aggressive, imbued with over-the-top ideas and chops, so damned ferocious. Of course, Daniels is going nuts throughout as well, his well-honed expertise likewise shining with new light, but, equally apparent, there's a quite discernable flavor of classicalism in places too. Check out their take on Perdidio, f'rinstance. Hey, where'd ya think the Duke got a decent percentage of his own ideas and inspirations, hm? And Kellaway and Daniels are far from ignorant of the fact. In that, then, you might want to cast memory back to what Freddie Hubbard, Hubert Laws, and others in the CTI era favored, but, make no mistake, Duke at the Roadhouse is prime jazz at its best, doing what jazz is s'posed to do.
And there's a little side note to support my citation of jazz/classical contrasts and kindrednesses: James Holland is a classical cellist and classical musicians…well, they're kinda the soul of orthodoxy, ya know?, but also more than daunting in prowess. Thus, while Roger and Eddie are improv'ing their brains out, every note played by Holland was written by Kellaway. Holland was chosen precisely for his ability to imbue his performance as though it were spontaneous, and, yow!, does he ever. Good to know this, though, because it adds a very interesting side dimension in what's going on throughout.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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