These two arrangers capture the Ellington mood and get a full sound out of the septet, only four horns plus rhythm. It helps that everyone doubles, at least! Take Tom Baker. He provides the Rex Stewart sound on "Subtle Slough" ("Just Squeeze Me",) the Bubba Miley growl on "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo ," trombone chorus trades with Barrett on "Mellotone" and his own tenor sax take on "Mood Indigo."
The CD includes Ellingtonia from the twenties to the fifties - from orchestral stride piano on "The Mooche" to 1958's "Happy Reunion," once a tenor feature for Paul Gonsalves, now for Roberscheuten. There's "A Train" with a laid-back jazz waltz intro and an evocative cornet solo by Barrett. "C Jam Blues" includes choruses and introductions for all.And those ballads! "I Didn't Know About You", showcasing the two leaders plus a medley of "In a Sentimental Mood," I Got It Bad" and the beautifully voiced "Solitude."
"Portrait" is an apt title. Ellington painted with sound. If you saw this portrait in a gallery your first reaction would be "Sure looks like Duke!" Then, "What an original blend of colors and texture!" That's what jazz and this CD are all about.