Mercer Hassy – Duke’s Place (ENG review)

Mercer Hassy records - Street Date April, 15 2024
Jazz Funk
Mercer Hassy - Duke's Place (ENG review)

There are albums that defy classification, mainly valued for the good dose of humor they bring. Such is the case with this strange homage to Duke Ellington originating from Japan, which oscillates between pure jazz and funk music. This album, the third from this miraculous group of professional musicians, whose first two albums consecutively reached the summits of the American and North American charts since their astonishing debut, is a collection of Ellington’s works! Their first album, “Sir Duke,” and their second album, “Don’t Stop The Carnival,” reached the 34th and 43rd spots on the American chart (Jazz Week), and the 7th and 10th spots on the North American chart (Roots Music Report) respectively. The Mercer Hassy Orchestra, a big band consisting of workers and students in Sapporo, Japan, was the only Japanese group selected for the North American jazz album rankings (Jazz category) in 2022.
For Mercer Hassy, Duke Ellington is a sort of living god, perhaps the reason why they worked on clever arrangements that bring Ellington’s work up to date. And frankly, it’s a success. One might lament the somewhat dry rhythmic aspect at times, reminiscent of Sadao Watanabe’s playing, but ultimately, one quickly overlooks this aspect to enjoy this proposition, relishing it as an exotic curiosity, especially amusing in the vocal parts which add to the comic aspect of the affair. Admittedly, the passion occasionally runs too high, but it’s difficult to detach oneself from this album, which subtly grabs hold of us and only releases us at the end of the final track.
Mercer Hassy was absolutely right to tackle Duke Ellington’s work. This music, once so modern, regains its brilliance, and it feels good. While the style of this album is too offbeat for Bayou Blue Radio’s programming, you won’t hear it there. However, this album is one of our favorites because we appreciate the sincerity with which it was made, even if we may have some reservations about the form. After all, jazz is a musical form that everyone can appropriate, and here, Mercer Hassy’s vision is to be appreciated in all its originality and cultural richness.

Thierry De Clemensat
USA correspondent – Paris-Move and ABS magazine
Editor in chief Bayou Blue Radio, Bayou Blue News

PARIS-MOVE, March 12th 2024


To buy this album