Duke Ellington

Complete Legendary Fargo Concert

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AllMusic Review by

This 1940 concert would have been just another date during a typical Duke Ellington tour, except for several facts. One is that a good portion of this evening in Fargo, North Dakota was recorded by two young men (Jack Towers and Dick Burris) on a portable disc cutter with Ellington's permission, though there was obviously no intention of commercially releasing it. The second is that this show marked the debut of trumpeter Ray Nance, who replaced the recently departed Cootie Williams. But the band itself was one of Ellington's very best, with tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges (heard on alto and soprano sax, as well as clarinet, though he abandoned the latter two instruments at the end of the year), baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, cornetist Rex Stewart, trombonists Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol and Lawrence Brown, along with the great young bassist Jimmy Blanton. The program is a mix of Ellington's past and future hits, a few standards and pop songs of the day, plus several obscurities, including some never again played following this date. Among the many highlights are "Ko-Ko," "Warm Valley," "Caravan," "Sepia Panorama," "Rockin' in Rhythm," "Cotton Tail," and "Conga Brava." Even though Towers and Burris had never recorded a live band and the discs received a lot of wear from being played prior to issue, the sound they achieved is remarkable. The CD-set title is a bit misleading, as it does not include all the songs performed that night, but every bit of music recorded (even tracks of just a few seconds) is included. This music has been issued a number of times over the years by a variety of labels, though this is easily one of the best editions of this historic concert.

Track Listing

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blue highlight denotes track pick