Life is full of mysteries, of course – some small, some large. At least a small one is why on earth this is Barrie Lee Hall’s first album-as-leader. The aphorism “better late than never” certainly applies in this instance. Sincere thanks to producer (and Barrie’s fellow-Ellingtonian) Shelley Carrol for rendering this particular mystery moot. Barrie Lee Hall, Jr., was born in Mansfield, Louisiana, on June 30, 1949. He later relocated to Houston, where he attended E. E. Worthing High School. Barrie credits Worthing band director Sammy Harris with first awakening his interest in jazz. He next enrolled in the landmark jazz program at Houston’s Texas Southern University (which spawned The Crusaders, Kirk Whalum, and many others), where he enjoyed the tutelage of T. S. U.’s legendary jazz instructor, the late Lanny Steele. It was during his T. S. U. days that I first discovered Barrie Lee Hall, and I remain an enthusiastic fan to this day. Houston’s all-time jazz patriarch, Arnett Cobb, arranged for Barrie’s first personal introduction to Duke Ellington at Houston’s Shamrock Hotel in 1973. A few days later, after a literal middle-of-the-night phone call from Duke to Barrie’s home, Hall permanently joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra, his inaugural gig being at the Shamrock on June 8, 1973. The rest is indeed history, as Hall became a prominent part of the Ellington organization, not only as trumpeter/flugelhornist, but as arranger, composer, co-producer, interim director, etc. He was a trusted member of Duke’s inner circle, and subsequently worked very closely with Mercer (son) and Paul (grandson) in various incarnations of the Orchestra. It is thus entirely appropriate that virtually all of the splendid accompanying musicians on this recording are members of the current Duke Ellington Orchestra. It is equally appropriate that, of the album’s ten selections, six are Ellington-related. However, for the listener that enjoys eclecticism, there is much more! From the boppish Monk’s Dream to the fast paced Short Note to the harmonically absorbing Uncle Soonie – there is something here for everyone, and I guarantee a rich listening experience. Enjoy! Dr. Robert Morgan Director of Jazz Studies Emeritus High School for Performing and Visual Arts Houston, Texas

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