There's nothing unique about an album exclusively featuring the music of Duke Ellington; the jazz icon's voluminous songbook begs to be played and replayed. Given this, today's musicians are faced with the challenge of revisiting these tried-and-true tunes without sounding redundant or old-hat.
Missoula's own jazz icon, David Morgenroth, rises admirably to that challenge on his solo piano album. Morgenroth gracefully swings through 13 tunes, some familiar, like "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," and some more obscure, like "Single Petal of a Rose."
Morgenroth's not afraid to add his own flavor as when he reinvents a lighter "Mood Indigo." But where Morgenroth's prowess really shines is in his solos. Where other musicians may rehash old styles, Morgenroth artfully creates new melodic lines, while still paying homage to the original.
Everyone does Duke, but not everyone does Duke well. Morgenroth proves he does, and in doing so, honors one of jazz's greatest legends.
David Morgenroth plays the Buddy DeFranco Jazz Festival at the University Theatre Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24 at 7:30 PM. $24 per night/$42 both nights.