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The Duke Book: The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn [Pure DSD]

Angelo Verploegen, Jasper van Hulten

Original Recording Format: DSD 256
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Angelo Verploegen dazzled NativeDSD listeners last year with his Jazz trio and their Just Listen release The Sweetest Sound. With The Duke Book, he teams with drummer Jasper van Hulten to perform standards from the Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn catalogs.

Rather than the familiar full ensemble or full orchestra performance of these tracks, this is simply the horn player and the drummer. It is a memorable journey and these two fine Jazz musicians put their own stamp on some very familiar and popular compositions.

And now we have The Duke Book.  Be sure to have a look at the rave reviews of this album in the Reviews Tab – and then pick up a copy in DSD Stereo and DSD Multichannel (or both)!

This is a Pure DSD 256 Stereo & 5 Channel recording from Just Listen.  No equalization, mixing, compression or editing is used on this album. All DSD bit rates were created in the DSD Domain using Signalyst HQ Player 4 Pro mastering tools.

A Personal Note from Angelo Verploegen

“The Duke Book is about melody and rhythm, about sound and time, about exploring the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn in all kinds of ways alongside exploring the sonorities of our instruments. Playing in numerous drum-less bands for some time now, I felt more and more the urge to investigate the possibilities of combining melody with only rhythm. And what better repertoire to do this with than Duke Ellington’s?

Ellington set the standard for melody, form, rhythm in the jazz idiom. So, when I was given the opportunity by label co-founder Jonas Sacks to make a new recording for Just Listen, I grabbed it with both hands and invited Jasper van Hulten to join me on this musical journey. Somehow Jasper’s musical intuition and incredible sensitivity fit my playing like a glove. His open mind, inventiveness and great dynamics make him a perfect match for this adventure.

This is the second collaboration with the outstanding Just Listen crew. My first encounter with their pure DSD recording was with my musical soulmates guitarist Ed Verhoeff and bassist Eric van der Westen doing the award-winning album The Sweetest Sound (JL009 Album Page). No sound-equalizing, no mixing, no compressing, no editing applied here. Just the musicians in a beautiful medium-large concert hall, the best possible technical equipment and a great set of ears of producer and recording engineer Jared Sacks.”

Producer’s Note from Jared Sacks

“Flugelhorn and Drums…. A whole album? Both of you will have to be very good to keep the listener’s attention for the duration of a complete album. And yes, it is all very good. These boys needed no producing on my part. Setting up the microphones was also easy. A great space to play, two very musical minded players. I only needed to press record!”

Angelo Verploegen – Flugelhorn
Jasper Van Hulten – Drums


Please note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Blues In Blueprint
Satin Doll
Come Sunday
Interlude I - Bounce
Interlude II - Humming
A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing
Take The "A" Train
Interlude III - Curls
In A Sentimental Mood
Interlude IV - Hush
It Don't Mean A Thing
Interlude V - Last Call
Sophisticated Lady

Total time: 00:54:15

Additional information





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Analog to Digital Converter

Horus, Merging Technologies


Van den Hul

Mastering Engineer

Jared Sacks


Bruel&Kjaer 4006, Schoeps, AKG

Mixing Board

Rens Heijnis, custom design



Original Recording Format


Jared Sacks, Jonas Sacks

Recording Engineer

Jared Sacks

Recording Location

MCO Hilversum, the Netherlands in April 2019

Recording Software

Pyramix, Merging Technologies

Recording Type & Bit Rate

DSD 256


Grimm LS1

Release DateOctober 23, 2019

Press reviews

Positive Feedback

“Take the A Train,” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing”—they all simply work, even with just the two instruments of these two very creative artists. Closing the album with “Sophisticates Lady” just made me want to go back for more. So I did. Just played it all the way through from the beginning right then. (…) This album is a master class in control, technique, and innovative music making. Fifteen tracks: ten well-known pieces by Ellington and/or Strayhorn and five very short Interlude tracks by Verploegen. Simply delightful music-making.

Positive Feedback

When two very skilled artists come together to create a musical performance with music by Ellington and Strayhorn, one’s hopes ride very high. Verploegan and Hulten do not disappoint. Can you imagine an hour’s worth of music with just flugelhorn and drums? Well, when the performers are this good, all I have to say is, “Please give me more!”

In my first article about Just Listen Records (HERE), I highlighted another of Angelo Verploegen’s albums with a different set of collaborators: The Sweetest Sound. With that earlier album, Verploegen’s first outing with Just Listen, I was completely captivated by his musicianship and skills. Ann’s comment was, “This is really excellent music, and Verploegen’s playing is fantastic.” We both looked forward to hearing more from him. And now we have more. And the more is great!

The album opens with the sparse but elegant Ellington tune “Blues in Blueprint.” I was initially surprised to hear the Verploegen’s flugelhorn play the opening notes, just a tick here, then a tick there. I was expecting Ellington’s piano of course. But it works! And then the van Hulten comes in on drums, brushes, and a bit of cymbal, and the piece begins to flesh out. After another minute they’d hooked me.

HiFi Critic

Subtitled The Music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, this is one of those sets that sounds like a real oddity but works surprisingly well. There are just the two musicians here, and the instrumentation is unusual – flugelhorn player Verploegen and drummer van Hulten – but the result is a recording as intriguing as it is spare and clean.

It’s recorded and released on the Just Listen label, which is one of producer Jared Sacks’s side-projects – when he’s not running Channel Classics and NativeDSD, that is – and the label’s approach is an amazingly simple one. Literally so: the microphones – from B&K, Schoeps and AKG – are set up in a studio (in this case the MCO in Hilversum), and the recording is made directly, with no EQ, no compression, no mixing after the event and no editing.

This is one-take recording, and the result is real music, not a collage of snippets assembled on a digital workstation. Sacks balances up the microphones, and away they go. All of which shows in the lively, spontaneous performances captured here, from the familiar – Satin Doll, Caravan, Take the A Train – to the lesser-known tracks and the improvised interludes.

You can hear the two master musicians feeding off each other, their appreciation of the music, and the total confidence with which they soar off in new directions. And for just two, it’s amazing how big and multi-textured a sound they can create, especially when van Hulten really gets the kit motoring.

Jazz Tokyo: “They got me!”

Surprisingly a great joy when you hear the unexpected sound on the well known standard numbers, with ohhing and ahhing over it. Have you had such experience before?

This album just arriving from Netherland is definitely the one-The Duke Book played by Angelo Verploegen (flugelhorn) & Jasper van Hulten(drums) , which contains all Ellington numbers.

As for the duo of trumpet and drum, you would remember “mu suits (’69/BYG)” and “El Corazon (’82/ECM1230)” / Don Cherry (trumpet) –& Ed Blackwell(drums), capturing the sound of the ancient earth with free style. Contrary to it, on this Album “The Duke Book,” there were two “sounds” seeking a deep world with each other, as yet not free style. Angelo plays Flugelhorn carefully as if he examines the value of each note, while Jasper freely fills in. There is no feeling of the original “swing feeling” here, but there is a unique rhythm consciousness rooted on the European jazz- space and quietness. It’s great to see the two musicians’ dedication and contribution to Duke Ellington while finding their unique way on Duke’s songs, which seems, to me, reciprocation for Duke’s contribution.

It’s very personal thing, but I would like to note here. When I was sick in bed at the end of March (not Corona, though), I was prescribed antibiotic and at the same time I was introduced to this album. Of course, the medicine worked, but more than that, I really appreciate the music coming from “Duke Book” which could ease my pain. Every time when I hear their music, I’m grateful for their dignified sounds; Music is the best medicine.

I’m looking forward to their next album!

NativeDSD Blog

Jazz performance is sometimes compared to a tightrope walk. A dialogue between a horn player and a percussionist, with no piano, guitar or bass to provide the harmonic foundation, is like a tightrope walk without a net. On their recent album “The Duke Book”, a set of duo performances of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn compositions, flugelhorn player Angelo Verploegen and drummer Jasper van Hulten make the risk-taking seem effortless.

The selection of tunes, from the well-known classics “Satin Doll”, “Caravan”, and “Take the “A” Train” to the lesser-known “Blues in Blueprint” and “Smada” from the 1962 Columbia Records album (and audiophile favorite) “Blues in Orbit”, provides a framework for new arrangements and plenty of room for individual expression.

The absence of a piano gives percussionist van Hulten plenty of space to play in an orchestral style and explore the palette of percussive tone colors. Small details like the delicate brushwork that opens “Blues in Blueprint”, the Cuban dance rhythm in “Satin Doll”, and the floor toms played like kettle drums in “Come Sunday”, draw the listener into the intimate musical setting.

Ellington/Tizol’s “Caravan” is recast by Verploegen in a subtle arrangement that delays the appearance of the original theme until nearly the end of the performance. It’s a bravura choice that a less experienced musician wouldn’t have risked. Verploegen plays a flugelhorn made by the Dutch instrument designer Hub van Laar, whose instruments are used by the Dutch trumpet virtuoso Eric Vloeimans. The flugelhorn is pitched in the same key as the trumpet, but possesses a deeper timbre and rounder tone that Verploegen explores in the lyrical passages of “Come Sunday” and “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”.

Though he’s playing from the Ellington book, Verploegen avoids emulating the characteristic riffs and clichés of Duke’s trumpet soloists. Like many players who came of age in the 1980s, a time when free jazz had retreated to the margins and the “Young Lions” had reintroduced earlier jazz currents into the neo-bop repertoire, Verploegen synthesizes a range of stylistic influences. He improvises with great confidence and dexterity, easily meeting the challenge of tracking the chord changes without a backing instrument. If you’re familiar with the pieces, you can “hear” the implied chords beneath Verploegen’s and van Hulten’s solo phrases and duo interplay.

Engineer Jared Sacks’s recording played in Stereo DSD 512 positions the two players in the sumptuous reverberant acoustic of MCO, Hilversum. “The Duke Book” is a delight for audiophiles and highly recommended for all jazz lovers.

Jazzenzo Jazz Magazine

The Duke Book features the repertoire of Duke Ellington performed with just Flugelhorn and Drums. Trumpet player Angelo Verploegen and percussionist Jasper van Hulten took the risk and the result can certainly be called astonishing.

The duo chose well-known and less well-known works that Ellington often wrote with Billy Strayhorn. The album includes ‘Take The A Train’, ‘Satin Doll’, ‘Caravan’, ‘In A Sentimental Mood’, ‘It Don’t Mean A Thing’, but also ‘Smada’ and ‘Blues In Blueprint’, the album opener in which Verploegen and Van Hulten explore each other’s options.

Improvisation and playful subtlety form the common thread. There are certainly points of recognition, but the free interpretation that both give to the pieces is incorrigible and unique because of the instruments. Here and there Verploegen omits pieces from the actual melody or does he choose free timing? Van Hulten’s drums are melodic and free, creating wide dialogues that constantly retain the tension.

Verploegen shows himself to be a master of his instrument. The persistent high tone in the intro of ‘Take The A Train’ continues throughout the piece while the original swing is retained. We hear another original opener in one of the five interludes that the album has, short improvisations that tie in with Ellington in which Verploegen’s flugelhorn growls and strokes.

The velvety maneuverability that Verploegen displays combined with the great ingenuity of Van Hulten lifts the interaction between the two to a high level with inexhaustible possibilities. These are ingredients that require a stage performance. A tour is therefore in the making.


“Now together in The Duke Book. An intuitive combination, in which feeling, openness, daring and respect for each other provide the Ellington compositions with new perspectives. (…)

The Duke Book by Angelo Verploegen and Jasper van Hulten is of great importance for Dutch jazz. In this micro-constellation, no one can better and more honestly interpret the heritage of Duke Ellington than they do. What an achievement again. (…)

The music conducts a dialogue with The Duke, in which it is constantly scanned to see whether the vision of the two contemporary performers fits within the framework of the great composer. That he would not doubt this for a moment will be confirmed by everyone who takes note of this beautiful album.”


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