NYC-based reed whizkid Matt Darriau's mob Ballin' The Jack has done it again - that is, paying tribute to the 20s/30s works of Duke Ellington in a vibrant, slightly irreverent & entirely non-nostalgic fashion. The Big Head is full of growling, vocalized brass, ethereal wailing reeds & joyous, stompin' swing.
This time 'round they've covered some non-Duke tunes, rendered in the Ducal Manner: a slightly surreal, madly driving take on Benny Goodman's "Seven Come Eleven" and the bop-in-The Time Tunnel version of Gene Ammons' "Jug (Dexter Digs In)." There's a few originals mixed in, like Darriau's free-tinged "Tapped Out." Throughout, The Spirit Of The Duke oversees the proceedings, but there's hints of the irrepressible stomp of Jimmie Lunceford and the pointed, quirky arrangements of Carla Bley & 70s/80s Gil Evans. Oh yeah, the ghost of Miles stops by, too. The Big Head is a true rarity these days - it's a set of thoughtful, creative music that's also a lotta jive-free FUN.