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Duke​!​: Three Portraits of Ellington

by Graham Reynolds Music

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The composing genius of Duke Ellington meets the ferocious energy of Jerry Lee Lewis meets the exploratory mind of Graham Reynolds in this album, with Gabriel Prokofiev, DJ Spooky, and others helping expand the vision. Seven songs done three completely different ways, one unified album. For Graham, his Ellington show started as a don't-think-about-it-too much, just-have-fun, one-time-only, take-a-break-from-composing side project. Then it was too much fun, and the audience too responsive, to let it rest there. Repeat performances saw the arrangements and ideas behind the music develop, the list of tunes narrow and focus, and the audiences grow. An album became an obvious next step. As a composer-bandleader himself, Reynolds looks to Duke as a model, perhaps the definitive model, of a what a composer-bandleader can be and the heights that can be achieved. Straddling the territory between the "band" format where collectively rules, and the traditional "composer" model, with its top down system, Ellington create composed music that only his band and those specific players could ever fully execute as envisioned. Rather than attempting any sort of recreation, Graham recast the music for himself and the players he works with, especially the unique voices of drummer Jeremy Bruch on drums and violinist Leah Zeger. The band portrait came first in the form of short but intensely high-energy shows with turn-it-to-11, in-your face brashness and a sustained driving rock pulse. Instead of the large ensembles Ellington favored, Graham chose a focused line-up up of drums, piano, sax, trombone, and bass. The size allows for a looseness that gives the players room to rip it up and explore their own ideas while still maintaining a tight unified front. The string portrait came next with Graham stepping further from Ellington's vision, creating something truly his own from tiny fragments of the originals in the classical tradition of theme and variation. Developed in the studio rather than live in clubs, these pieces show Reynolds' more intimate side. Finally came the remix portrait, where Graham turned over the recordings from the band and string portraits to seven remixers to cast the pieces in their own voice: Okkerville River's Justin Sherburn, DJ Spooky, Gabriel Prokofiev (grandson of the great Russian composer), Golden Hornet Project's Peter Stopschinski, grammy-nominated producer Adrian Quesada of Grupo Fantasma, and finally Reynolds himself. Graham looks for collaborators in all his work, whether it has been musicians in his ensembles, or directors and choreographers in his film, theater, and dance work. In Duke Ellington, Reynolds has found a new type of collaborator and an incredible source of inspiration. DUKE! is his tribute to and sonic portrait of one of history's greatest composer-bandleaders.


released January 25, 2011

The Band Portrait
1 Caravan
2 It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
3 Old King Dooji
4 Echoes of Harlem
5 Blue Pepper
6 Heaven
7 Cotton Tail

The String Quartet Portrait
8 String Abstraction #1 (Heaven)
9 String Abstraction #2 (It Don’t Mean a Thing)
10 String Abstraction #3 (Cotton Tail)
11 String Abstraction #4 (Caravan SloMo)
12 String Abstraction #5 (Caravan Pizz)
13 String Abstraction #6 (Echoes of Harlem)
14 String Abstraction #7 (Blue Pepper)
15 String Abstraction #8 (Old King Dooji)

The Remix Portrait
16 Level One (Heaven Remix by Adrian Quesada)
17 The Bear & The Duke Meet The Golden Army (Blue Pepper remix by Butcher Bear)
18 Old Kings (Remix by Gabriel Prokofiev)
19 The Year of the Rabbit (Remix by Peter Stopschinski)
20 Echoes of Harlem (Remix by Justin Sherburn and Jeff Hoskins)
21 It Don’t Mean (String Abstraction remix by DJ Spooky)
22 Caravan (Remix by Graham Reynolds)

Drums- Jeremy Bruch
Bass- Steve Bernal, Brandon Rivas
Sax- John Mills, Thad Scott, Paul Klemperer
Trombone- Freddie Mendoza, Wayne Myers, Jerome Smith
Violin- Leah Zeger, Bruce Colson, Alexis Buffum, Jennifer Bourianoff, Joseph Shuffield
Viola- Leah Nelson, Jason Elinoff
Cello- Hector Moreno
Piano- Graham Reynolds
Produced, Recorded, and Mixed by Graham Reynolds and Buzz Moran
At Red House Studio, Austin, TX
Mastered by Ben Blank at Ben Blank Media

Cottontail, Old King Dooji, Echoes of Harlem, Blue Pepper

Heaven by Duke Ellington TEMPO MUSIC, INC. ASCAP

Caravan by Juan Tizol, Duke Ellington EMI MILLS MUSIC INC, SONY/ATV HARMONY ASCAP

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing) by Duke Ellington, Irving Mills


Tracks 1-8, 15 & 16 arranged by Graham Reynolds
Tracks 9-14 composed by Graham Reynolds


Cover Art by Lance Myers
Cover Design and Layout by Buzz Moran
Management- John Riedie, Rampant Arts
Innova Director- Philip Blackburn
Operations Manager- Chris Campbell
Innova is supported by an endowment from the McKnight Foundation


all rights reserved



Graham Reynolds Music Austin, Texas

Austin-based composer-bandleader-improviser Graham Reynolds creates, performs, and records music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls, with collaborators ranging from Richard Linklater and Jack Black to DJ Spooky and Jeffrey Zeigler. Graham recently signed with London-based label Fire Records and released his score for Hitchcock’s silent classic, The Lodger, in October 2020. ... more

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