Not the best Classics disc of Ellington's 1920s and '30s work (look to the label's mid- to late-'30s titles), this 23-track round-up of the bandleader's 1932-1933 output still offers enough in the way of quality originals and stellar playing to keep most Duke enthusiasts happy. The first half contains the choicest selections, including such top-notch ensemble vehicles as Benny Carter's "Jazz Cocktail" (his arrangement is used, too) and superb Ellington charts like "Slippery Horn," "Blue Harlem," and "Lightnin'." The latter half does sag a bit with several vocal novelties featuring Ivie Anderson, the Mills Brothers, and Adelaide Hall, but the always excellent contributions of Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Barney Bigard, and Cootie Williams keep things in check. An enjoyable slice of early Ellingtonia that's may be best left to the more trench-friendly of early jazz lovers.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Cook