Duke Ellington

Masters of Jazz

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While tempted to call this collection of tracks by Duke Ellington & His Orchestra a hodgepodge, it's more like a mishmash. The music here -- 18 cuts worth -- is presented in strange fashion. First, it's from all different periods ranging from 1943 to 1966 (the latest cut chronologically is a solo piano read of a medley of Duke's finest). It's not presented in chronological order either, but was sequenced aesthetically instead. The first pieces, "Take the 'A' Train" and "Blow Boy Blow," are from 1962 when the band, while not in its prime, did contain a number of startling players including Cat Anderson and Ray Nance on trumpets, Paul Gonsalves and Johnny Hodges on saxophones, and Sam Woodyard and Harry Carney on drums and bass, respectively. These tunes swing hard, though the sound quality is a little ragged. The treasure piece here is the aforementioned solo piano medley recorded in Paris in 1966, with Ellington moving through "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Satin Doll," "Sophisticated Lady," "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)," "Mood Indigo," and "Caravan," just to name a few. At nearly 12 minutes, it is excellent intimate Ellington. The remainder of the material comes from either 1943 or 1949, including a number of cuts with Ben Webster and Juan Tizol, recorded at either Carnegie Hall or the Hollywood Empire. Al Hibbler is featured on some of the 1943 dates singing "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," "Rockin' in Rhythm," and "Ring Dem Bells." The sound quality varies but the performances are excellent throughout. This is for the collectors out there searching for rare material.

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