by Willard Manus
John DiMartino pays tribute to the music of Billy Strayhorn on PASSION
FLOWER. DiMartino and his band-mates Eric Alexander, Boris Kozlo and Lewis
Nash give such familiar Strayhorn compositions as "Isfahan,"
"Take the A Train" and "Chelsea Bridge" a fresh, modern
sound. Singer Raul Midon joins the quartet on "Lush Life," delivering
a warm, heartfelt version of the ballad.
DiMartino, who also produced and arranged PASSION FLOWER, has long been
interested in Strayhorn's work. A relative gave him a recording of Chet
Baker and Russ Freeman's version of "Lush Life"-- and ordered
him to learn the tune. He was only fifteen at the time--ironically, the
same age Strayhorn was when he composed the tune. "It's been on my
mind all these years," said DiMartino.
There's a lot of straight-ahead playing on PASSION FLOWER, but its fourteen
tracks also contain some musical surprises: "Star Crossed Lovers"
played as a bossa nova, "Chelsea Bridge" as a bolero. Especially
moving is DiMartino's interpretation of "Blood Count," the tune
Strayhorn wrote in 1967 when he was in hospital dying of cancer. DiMartino
and tenorman Eric Alexander capture the power, sadness and beauty of Strayhorn's
(Gemini Music Co.)