Music Reviews
Mercer Hassy Orchestra

Mercer Hassy Orchestra

Duke’s Place

Mercer Hassy Records

I cringe a little when I get an album dedicated to one of the iconic jazz masters. All too often, the set is faithful to a fault, trying to recreate the sound of the master or playing the charts so straight they’re rendered bereft of joy. That can’t be said of Duke’s Place by the Sapporo, Japan, based Mercer Hassy Orchestra. Hassy (born Masahide Hashimoto) has devoted himself to the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, and that love comes through in the form of creative arrangements that seek to inspire the sort of awe that Ellington brought to audiences in the 1930s.

Duke’s Place is all about having fun with the music. The arrangement of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” is about as traditional as this album gets. Every other song brings something new to the arrangement. The title track has hard-swinging horns with a funky rhythm section. “Satin Doll” has a Motown beat and a melody carried by vibes. “Apes and Peacocks” rocks out with hip-hop beats, complete with a human beatboxer taking a solo. “Daybreak Express” kicks things off with a locomotive rhythm, and the saxes sounding like train horns.

The repertoire for Duke’s Place is largely drawn from early compositions of the late 1920s and 1930s. Mercer Hassy does a great job of capturing and updating the “hot jazz” feel on 1928’s “Hot and Bothered.”

I’m not as fond of the numbers with vocals, but they still throw some curves at us. “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” has a hard swing feel with doo-wopish backing vocals. For “Prelude to a Kiss,” Hassy takes a page from 10cc and dispenses with the instrumentalists altogether. The lead vocalists may be crooning, but they’re backed up by a choir singing the chord changes.

The Mercer Hassy OrchestraJazz Promo Services


Recently on Ink 19...

Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Event Reviews

Joe Jackson brought his Two Rounds of Racket tour to the Lincoln Theatre in Washington D.C. on Monday. Bob Pomeroy was in the area and caught the show.

Matías Meyer

Matías Meyer

Interviews

With only a week to go before powerful new feature Louis Riel or Heaven Touches The Earth premieres in the Main Slate at UNAM International Film Festival, Lily and Generoso sat down for an in-depth conversation with the film’s director, Matías Meyer.

Mostly True

Mostly True

Print Reviews

Carl F. Gauze reviews the fascinating Mostly True: The West’s Most Popular Hobo Graffiti Magazine, a chronicle of forgotten outsider subculture.

The Tin Star

The Tin Star

Screen Reviews

Anthony Mann’s gorgeous monochrome western, The Tin Star, may have been shot in black and white, but its themes are never that easily defined.

Flipside

Flipside

Screen Reviews

Charles DJ Deppner finds Flipside to be a vital treatise on mortality, creativity, and purpose, disguised as a quirky documentary about a struggling record store.