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  • Jonathan Widran

TOM CULVER AT DUKE'S PLACE: The Songs of Duke Ellington

Sometimes a contemporary artist is so spiritually in tune with music from a bygone era that the well-worn notion of a “tribute” album gives way to something more transcendent. On the surface, Tom Culver at Duke’s Place is a sophisticated, swinging and soulful homage to Duke Ellington.

It’s a gorgeously produced (by the always hip and aesthetically insightful Mark Winkler) mix of well-known classics and delightful obscurities, gentle ballads and more groove intensive strolls that alternately showcase the veteran L.A. singer’s hushed, inviting intimacy and dashing, confident vocal strut.

But immerse deeper with these 12 gems – from the opening title track adaption of “C Jam Blues” to the rambunctious, fast traveling closer “Caravan,” a snappy duet with Winkler – and you’ll attune to something far beyond this.

Working with a cadre of L.A.’s top jazz cats (including pianists Rich Eames and Josh Nelson, guitarists Pat Kelley and Larry Koonse and fiery saxman Rickey Woodard), Culver effortlessly crafts a multi-dimensional, time traveling, soul transportive experience that puts you (in the audience) and the singer (commanding center stage) in bustling spots like the Cotton Club. It’s a fascinating, multi-faceted journey that will indeed make you feel like a lucky so and so.

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