Tom Culver pays homage to Duke Ellington on “Duke’s Place”

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Despite having decades of experience, Tom Culver is only on his fifth album. “Duke’s Place” is due March 25, 2019. The album captures not only the sound, but the late night context of Duke Ellington’s work.

Culver’s trademark sophistication, humor, tenderness and happy-go-lucky countenance all come to bear on his work on “Duke’s Place.”

“Duke’s Place” is the second themed album that Culver has created. Previously, Culver took on Cole Porter’s work in a show that captivated audiences in both New York City and Hollywood.

 

“Duke’s Place” by Tom Culver

The style that Culver is known for is all over this classic. The timing, phrasing, and instrumentation all make the song come to life with a swinging verve that makes audiences keep listening.

The song has a setting, aside from the one of the title. It is three o’clock, “but it’s early.” The lyrics describe the dancing couples, the fact that patrons can still get something to eat – – just call a waiter, and the imagery evoked is like a painting from mid-century.

Culver’s voice is spry and full of the humor that he is known for. The song is fun. It makes listeners want to get in on the fun.

“Ain’t got Nothin’ But the Blues” by Tom Culver

In a departure from the jazzy energy of the title track, the humor here is found in the wordplay – – “Ain’t got no rest in my slumber/ain’t got no telephone numbers/I ain’t got nothin’ but the blues.”

The song is a bluesy, down tempo masterpiece. A thudding upright bass and a screaming horn both work to punctuate and accent the story of love gone wrong, leaving the narrator lonely.

Tom Culver: “I’m Just a Lucky and So and So”

The song begins brightly, but the chorus is sparsely accompanied, with just an upright bass, which helps to bring the focus to the lyrics. The drums provide a shimmery accent, even when they “run” at the end.

The narrator charms listeners with his story of his being well-liked, even though his bank account is lacking. It could be the tale of someone who wants to cajole other people into thinking he’s “lucky.” Or, it could be the words of someone who wants to change what it means to be fortunate. If people (and birds) are kind to you, even if you don’t have money, you can still be lucky, or rich. It is a poignant statement and made with understated style here, and it resonates across decades.

Fans of both Ellington and Culver should find this recording of interest. In addition, jazz fans should want this for their collections. The soundscapes, plus Culver’s style make this an album worth multiple spins.

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