All of the Duke Ellington Orchestra's recordings from 1935 plus their first two sessions from 1936 are on this enjoyable CD. The rise of the swing era may have resulted in many competing big bands being formed, but Ellington occupied his own private musical world and continued to flourish artistically and to an extent commercially. By 1935, his orchestra featured major soloists in Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Tricky Sam Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard, and the leader on piano. During the era Ellington experimented by frequently using both Hayes Alvis and Billy Taylor on bass. Among the memorable selections that are on this disc are "In a Sentimental Mood," "Accent on Youth," "Clarinet Lament" (featuring Bigard), "Echoes of Harlem," and the melancholy four-part "Reminiscing in Tempo." The music may be available in more complete form elsewhere (since alternate takes are left out), but this is an excellent series nevertheless.
AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow