I think a lot of people are going to miss a subtle touchstone here because Dorothy Doring is bridging separated continents and bygone eras, but her and Phil Mattson's duet tribute to two icons of American jazz is quite Weillian—yep, as in 'Kurt Weill', which at first seem a trifle odd when we're speaking of the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. This, however, shouldn't come as too much a surprise to Doring's fans due to the singer's background in cabaret, blues, and torch songs. Nor does Mattson miss the crossroads either, as he likewise injects touches of the Weimarian era into cuts like Everything But You. The fact that Ellington &aamp; Strayhorn never themselves ventured into that mode is what makes the CD both striking and puzzling as it starts up…until you make the German connection and all becomes clear.
Listen to Something to Live For, and you'll hear more than a little Lotte Lenya as filtered through the streets of New York City and Harlem. Note the years the Duke's and Billy's comps were written (see below), and the connection becomes more vivid—not that the composers were writing in the famed Teutonic gents' artistic milieu, they weren't, but it's kinda daring that Doring and her inflections are reminiscent of readings in the times' European flavor and Bertolt Brecht's librettos, infusing metropolitan lights and down-home nights rather than sleazy Three Penny krautische back alleys and slums. Mattson pulls things both ways as well, his arrangements and playing in I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good imbuing the song with a Waller / Gershwin mixture of Ain't Misbehavin' and Porgy & Bess.
Phil has worked with and for an unusually solid array of top talent—Manhattan Transfer, Mark Murphy, Chanticleer, the Four Freshman, Carmen Lundy, Vocalogy, many more besides and even the Stan Kenton Clinics (ahhhhhh, Kenton!!): everyone, or so it seems, but Led Zeppelin—but Doring is far more sparing in her output, only releasing a disc every six or seven years. Mattson, though, understood what he was hearing in her work and, as he revealed, many of the disc's cuts required but a single take, Dorothy nailing it on the first go, knowing exactly what she saw in the materials and how to get there. So, smiling like a Cheshire cat, here's my warning: Don't come to Compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn expecting compositions by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn because there's a whole lot more than that, and if you weren't quite aware of just where the blues come from, even in the often breathtakingly sparkling oeuvre of Duke and Billy, you'll find a good deal more than you bargained for, a wake-up call.
And those two were-felines you might see beside me? That's just Kurt 'n Bert, equally pleased with the experience, grinning from ear to ear, listening and purring all the while.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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