Living Era's Cotton Club album opens with Irving Mills introducing Duke Ellington & His Cotton Club Orchestra in a contrived "Cotton Club" setting. In a moment of supremely clueless artificial camaraderie, Mills, sounding like a diminutive gangster, refers to Ellington as "Dukie." What transpires next is a parade of performers who were essential participants in the musical nightlife of New York City during the late '20s and early '30s. Here come the big bands led by Chick Webb, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, Jimmie Lunceford, Andy Kirk, and Reginald Foresythe, with vocalists Ethel Waters, Adelaide Hall, Midge Williams, and epiglottal wonder Harold Arlen. Highlights include Chick Webb's solid take on "Heebie Jeebies," Cab Calloway's treatment of Fats Waller's "Old Yazoo," and Reginald Foresythe's very dignified rendering of his own "Serenade for a Wealthy Widow." Having presumably stowed his Thompson machine gun under a nearby tablecloth, Irving Mills re-emerges to conclude the Cotton Club album with an off-the-cuff vocal on "Doin' the New Low Down" in front of the greatest jazz orchestra in the world, led by Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf