Duke Ellington

At the Cotton Club [Jazz Panorama]

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This obscure LP from the 1970s has 15 performances by Duke Ellington that are mostly unavailable elsewhere. Most unusual is Ellington's solo piano/vocal (!) version of "I've Got to Be a Rug Cutter." There is also a small-group romp on "Frolic Sam" from a CBS Saturday Night Swing Session radio show; otherwise, the music was broadcast live from the Cotton Club in 1938. The main fault is that, while the recording quality is fine for the time, three songs cut off prematurely right before their conclusions; one assumes these were errors made by the person originally taping the music. It is particularly frustrating on the odd and strangely staccatoish "If You Were In My Place." Nowhere is this flaw mentioned on the back cover of the album. Otherwise the music is excellent with highlights include a rare version of Ellington's obscure "Jig Walk," Ivie Anderson's singing on "Oh, Babe, Maybe Someday," "Azure," and the upbeat "Dinah's In a Jam." With the exception of "In a Sentimental Mood," all of the selections are lesser-known, making this a valuable acquisition for Ellington scholars despite the flaws.