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Life by Doug Ellington

Every once in a while it’s a real treat to sit down and listen to someone play jazz influenced by good ol’ straight-ahead hard-bop. These days it seems as if the new generation only wants to move forward in their own manner, without taking time to find out how today’s music became the way it is. Woody Shaw said he moved forward by looking back - it’s a shame those words are so rarely heeded.

San Francisco Bay Area native, trumpeter and composer Doug Ellington has spent some time working in Vancouver becoming coming back home in 2002. It’s from there he works today. This recording, Life, is self-produced and released.

Ellington’s band, New Urban Groove, mix R&B with Hip Hop all from a hard-bop perspective. The result is a nice fresh and cool sound. His compositions are good and draw elements from two-chord jam band/R&B sources and sensibilities that expand and develop naturally. The swinger "Billy’s Dead" is a compositional standout. Here, just laying back with solo trumpet over the rhythm section without trying to be pyrotechnical in melodic design, his tune breathes with a nice relaxed feel and sets up a series of changes that groove. While Ellington’s solo isn’t quite up to the standard of the head, the overall effect is still pleasing. As a trumpeter it’s obvious Ellington is still developing, but he’s growing in all the right ways. You can hear him work out harmonic ideas that for sure will one day pay big dividends. Also worthy of note is "POP," a nice Horace Silverish hippy trip.

"Xenophobia" is a nice standard straight-blowing jazz chart featuring some great sax work by Chazz Alley. A real standout on the recording is the playing of pianist Yuma Sung. Sung not only has terrific chops, but a great feel for line and an inate sense of how to build a solo to tremendous climaxes. Sung’s work on "Song A" is stellar, but no less so than the solo on "Looking Forward To Summer/Jeanne Louise."

The recording’s sole vocal number, "Anti-Trust," is a Terence Blanchard styled composition that would not have been out of place on Mo’ Better Blues. Luisa Lualhati’s singing provides just the right inflection to give character to the lyric and still be exceptionally musical.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Doug Ellington
  • CD Title: Life
  • Genre: BeBop / Hard Bop
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Independent
  • Rating: Three Stars
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