Pay the Duke: The Hard Bop Association plays Duke Ellington
Doors Open for Music at Southminster series
Southminster United Church
Wednesday, May 11, 2016 – 12 noon

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Duke Ellington's music – reinterpreted for a new century – filled Southminster United Church with sweet swing and lots of vitality Wednesday at noon.

(l-r) Richard Page and Ed Lister both contributed original arrangements for the show ©Brett Delmage, 2016
(l-r) Richard Page and Ed Lister both contributed original arrangements for the show ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Led by trumpeter Ed Lister, a quintet of Ottawa jazz musicians paid loving tribute to classic tunes like “Caravan”, “Satin Doll”, “Cottontail”, and “Black and Tan Fantasy” – but in new arrangements by Lister and saxophonist Richard Page that were arresting and dynamic.

With a supple and steady rhythm section of Alex Bilodeau on double bass and David Pontello on drums keeping the swing going, Lister, Page, and pianist Mark Ferguson were able to stretch out and take the tunes to new places without ever losing track of the melodies. In particular, Page's playing the baritone sax, instead of the more usual tenor, in songs like “Satin Doll” added a gruffer bottom and more interesting textures to the well-known melodies. In “Black and Tan Fantasy”, you could imagine yourself in a 20s speakeasy with Lister's muted, bluesy trumpet lines and Ferguson's fast, inflected piano.

Page also contributed one of his own pieces, “Duke's Rhumba”, which was inspired by the Ellington tune “Oclupaca”. Its vibe and rhythm fit beautifully in with the Ellington canon. Lister's mellow flugelhorn nicely contrasted with the resonant baritone sax in alternating lines, and they steadily built up the insinuating rhythm together.

The quintet played without amplification, but were easily heard – and, in fact, the church's reverberant acoustics added richness to the sound.

The show ended with “Take the 'A' Train” – but played initially more slowly than the usual breakneck pace and then built to a rousing conclusion. The audience, who filled the church more than half-full, responded with strong and extended applause.

    – Alayne McGregor

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

Read the OttawaJazzScene.ca interview with Ed Lister and Richard Page about this show: