This fine import covers a stretch during the first half of the '30s when the Ellington band really hit their stride. The group's sleek and evocative sound was evolving into that trademark Ellington style, with charts and solo contributions of unprecedented quality. And while plenty of corn was still being dished up by manager Irving Mills' request, this 22-track disc spotlights the mature originals Ellington was now producing on a regular basis. Besides the classic Ivie Anderson vocal vehicle "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," the mix features such high-end instrumentals as "Rockin' in Rhythm," "Slippery Horn," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Mood Indigo" -- plus, there's Cootie Williams, Lawrence Brown, and Harry Carney reveling in their early prime. Along with Robert Parker's excellent Swing 1930-1938 collection, this EPM disc offers a great way to get versed in '30s Ellingtonia.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook