HEAVEN AND EARTH: A Duke Ellington Songbook

A Duke Ellington Songbook

Int. Release: May 17, 2016


MSR Jazz - 1 CD / Download

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“Soprano Danielle Talamantes is equally comfortable in a variety of musical settings, including opera, oratorio, and as a solo recitalist, as in this setting. She is the winner of several prestigious prizes. Her voice is supple and powerful, and her rendition of these Ellington songs is brilliant. She is joined by the sophisticated piano performance of Henry Dehlinger. Equally comfortable as piano soloist or as collaborative pianist, this disc proves him to also be a gifted arranger. Together the duo gives a stunning performance capturing the brilliance of these Duke Ellington songs."

Kim McCormick, Pan Pipes [Spring 2018]

"Talamantes’s voice is perfect for Ellington’s miniature masterpieces... this is a simply superb album, stunningly recorded, that deserves every success."

Colin Clarke, Fanfare [January/February 2018]

“On listening to this disc, I was reminded of another soprano, Dawn Upshaw... It shares some of the same characteristics. A superlative voice and sensitive accompaniment... In A Sentimental Mood has Talamantes in fine form, displaying the requisite degree of tenderness as well as an appealing jazz inflection in her voice... She is well supported by the empathetic Dehlinger who, on his one solo track later, gives a satisfying interpretation of Meditation... Talamantes reveals that she possesses a lovely voice and a powerful one, too... Danielle emotes passionately, confirming that she possesses one heck of a voice."

James Poore, MusicWeb International [February 2017]

“a blend of highly familiar and somewhat less familiar Ellington, with everything very well sung and played... [The arrangements] are all nicely done, and Talamantes looks for and often finds considerable emotional resonance in this music... There is pleasant camaraderie, a kind of mutual respect and enjoyment, in her musical interactions with Dehlinger: the best part of this recording is the sense it gives of listening in at an intimate friends-only gathering of Ellington aficionados."

Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [October 2016]

[ * * * * * ] “I’m tempted to say that if you buy only one disc this year, it should be this one. Just to double check, I sought out my review of Danielle Talamantes’s debut album from 2014 on MSR Classics called Canciones espanolas. Here is what I said: 'From the very first second of the very first track, Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall soloist soprano Danielle Talamantes rips into a recital of some of Spain’s greatest composers with such daring and furiously emotive singing that you hold your breath at the exuberance and seat-of-your-pants vocal dexterity coming from the speakers. Usually it takes a while for recordings to begin to make their mark, but not in this case; Talamantes besieges us with such exquisite and excitingly idiomatic vocalizing that you leave the listening session in awe.' I hate to be repetitive and verbose, but substitute “some of Spain’s greatest composers” with “Duke Ellington”, and the paragraph retains all of its truthfulness transferred to this new release. [These arrangements] are stunningly superb, each and every one... this is certainly, and in my mind unquestioningly, a full-fledged art song recording of one of the major art song composers in American history... these are well-executed, highly stylized renderings tinged with Ellington’s trademark harmonies and inventive melodies, sung with virtuoso perfection by one of our up-and-coming stars… [Henry Dehlinger] returns from his first outing with Talamantes to do her even finer justice here. Talamantes is simply brilliant in this music, giving it a knock-your-socks-off performance that leaves you hankering for much, much more. I am quite certain that I will return to this disc quite often... Formidably essential listening!.”

Steve Ritter, Audiophile Audition [September 2016]


Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899-1974) is a colossus among American composers of any genre. With a career spanning more than 50 years, he wrote over one thousand compositions, many of which have become jazz standards as well as precious, irreplaceable gems of the American Songbook. While music historians are wont to view him as a jazz or big band swing composer, Ellington's work reaches far beyond. Many musicologists have neglected the extensive body of sacred music that Ellington produced, four of which are presented in this album. In truth, Ellington did not consider himself a jazz or big band writer and performer. In his words, he wrote and played “the natural feelings of a people.”

Ellington conceived his works differently than others of the big band era. Typical arrangements of that period were written for a rhythm section supporting full sections of saxophones, trumpets and trombones with occasional short, improvised solos for contrast. Ellington was like a playwright, producing more script than manuscript, giving voice to leads within his cast of characters, then supporting the tale they wove with other voices within the cast. He chose his players not only for their musical proficiency, but also for their strong personalities. Unlike classic big band, Ellington encouraged his band to express themselves in their music, to let their individual personalities shine through.

The early works were often released as three-minute instrumental singles, the maximum time possible on the single side of a ten-inch 78 RPM record. Words were added later, sometimes several years later, and by a variety of lyricists, adding another sparkling—sometimes startling —dimension to the captivating saga. Whether an instrumental or vocal arrangement, these pieces carry away the listener with Ellington’s uniquely transcendent, supremely evocative, and unequaled style.

I first learned of Danielle and Henry’s Ellington project at a small gathering of musicians, a soiree of sorts, where artists, including some of Danielle’s most promising pupils from her voice studio, were performing works in progress and experimenting with concepts. When asked how she would follow her debut recording, Canciones españolas, Danielle thought aloud, “Possibly something out of the American Songbook…maybe an Ellington collection.” She and Henry had actually been performing two or three Ellington standards for some time, and they performed Larry Ham’s setting of In a Sentimental Mood for the gathering. Henry then improvised accompaniment for sections of a few other standards. It was obvious at that point that this idea was bound to become a beautiful new recording.

This collection captures the genius of Ellington's compositions and the emotional range of the performers - soprano Danielle Talamantes and pianist Henry Dehlinger. It features settings written by Larry Ham, Caren Levine, Marvin Mills and – in his debut as an arranger - Henry Dehlinger. Danielle and Henry have collaborated extensively on both performance and recording, and Henry wrote his arrangements featured in this album specifically for Danielle’s voice...

During Ellington's lifetime, a chasm existed - or was, at least, perceived - between the disciplines of “serious music” (as orchestral or classical music was called) and jazz music. In a televised interview in 1966, Leonard Bernstein and Duke Ellington discussed an erosion of this divide. Both were seeing that the aficionados supporting symphony concerts were the same enthusiastic attendees at Ellington performances. Bernstein expressed to Ellington, “You were one of the first people who wrote so-called symphonic jazz. Maybe that's the difference between us. You wrote symphonic jazz, and I wrote jazz symphonies.”

This collection of American music is intelligently conceived, sensitively arranged, and beautifully performed. Duke Ellington once said, quite simply, “If it sounds good, it IS good.” Danielle, Henry and audiences alike can be confident: This collection, indeed, IS good.

Scott Parrish, Raleigh, North Carolina


Recorded 13 July and 23 November 2015 at Vienna Presbyterian Church, Vienna, Virginia. A Candlewood Digital high resolution Natural Presence Technology™ recording: Produced by Richard Price; Engineered by Wayne Hileman; Edited and mastered by Richard Price. Executive Producer: Carole Taylor. Piano technician: James R. Davis. Product management: Robert LaPorta. Package design: Tim Schwartz @ Onion Productions.com. Artist photographs: Bill Bramble. ℗&© 2016 Danielle Talamantes and Henry Dehlinger.



Duke Ellington / Duke Ellington [arr. H. Dehlinger]



Duke Ellington / Billy Strayhorn and Gerald Wilson [arr. H. Dehlinger]



Duke Ellington / Manny Kurtz and Irving Mills [arr. L. Ham]



Duke Ellington / Bob Russell [arr. L. Ham]



Duke Ellington / Irving Gordon and Irving Mills [arr. L. Ham]



Duke Ellington / Bob Russell [arr. H. Dehlinger]



Duke Ellington / Irving Mills and Mitchell Parish [arr. H. Dehlinger]



Duke Ellington, Harry James and Johnny Hodges / Don George [arr. C. Levine]



Duke Ellington / Eddie Delange and Irving Mills [arr. C. Levine]



MEDITATION (piano solo)
Duke Ellington [arr. H. Dehlinger]



Duke Ellington / Duke Ellington [arr. M. Mills]



Duke Ellington / Duke Ellington [arr. H. Dehlinger]


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