Duke Ellington

The Centennial Collection

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The RCA Bluebird Centennial Collection with its single-CD/bonus-DVD combination is simply unbeatable for the money. In the case of Duke Ellington, one has to realize that any single-disc collection will be woefully inadequate, and this is no exception. However, of the 20 tracks included here, the cross section of material the composer and bandleader recorded for RCA is beautifully illustrated, beginning with "Black and Tan Fantasy" from October 1927. However, this volume also features seven previously unreleased recordings from two different sessions in 1941, including a stellar "Chelsea Bridge," "Moon Mist," "It's Square, but It Rocks," a moving "Sepia Panorama," "Love Like This Can't Last," "Are You Sticking?," and "In a Mellow Tone." These performances are worth the purchase price, but the DVD is even more compelling with no less than nine video selections that include two clips from Paramount shorts, among them "Symphony in Black" and "Record Making With Duke Ellington and His Orchestra," five clips from 1941, a selection from "Jamboree #7" from 1943, and an 11-minute interview with Ellington that was recorded for Radio Newsreel and is previously unreleased. In sum, this is a smart and compelling set for the Ellington fan and aficionado.

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