Nina Simone was on her way to becoming a major name by 1962, with her protest and civil rights songs granting her acclaim and recognition far beyond the jazz world. Sings Ellington is a change of pace for the singer/pianist, who is heard performing 11 songs written by Duke Ellington and/or Billy Strayhorn. Backed by an unidentified string orchestra (the accompaniment is often sparse) and the Malcolm Dodds Singers, she not only revives the usual Duke hits but such obscurities as "Hey, Buddy Bolden," "Merry Mending," and "You Better Know It." None of these performances sound like a typical treatment of Ellington material, with "I Got It Bad" having a gospel feel, "Something to Live For" being brief but heartfelt, "I Like the Sunrise" sounding like a big production number, and "Satin Doll" being taken as an instrumental. Though short in length, what is here is quite intriguing and original.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow