Volume 40 in the complete sequential recordings of Duke Ellington, as compiled and reissued in 2002 as part of the Classics Chronological Series, covers about a half-year's time from December 18, 1950 to May 24, 1951, beginning with two extended tracks initially issued on the Columbia LP Masterpieces by Ellington. With Sophisticated Lady and Solitude, Ellington took advantage of the new long-playing format to allow the band to stretch out as they'd been doing in live performance for many years. The vocalist on Sophisticated Lady was Yvonne Lanauze. In addition to the usual rich palette of Ellington and Strayhorn compositions, this portion of the chronology contains original works by trumpeters Charlie Shavers and William "Cat" Anderson; by valve trombonist and arranger Juan Tizol, tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, and Luigi Paulino Alfredo Francesco Antonio Balassoni, commonly known as drummer Louie Bellson, who had recently migrated from the Harry James Orchestra with Tizol and alto saxophonist Willie Smith. The music heard on this disc was recorded at a time when all of the big bands -- even those led by Count Basie and Duke Ellington -- were struggling to keep their heads above water. This explains the inclusion of seven selections that were released on Mercer records -- a short-lived independent label managed by Mercer Ellington, and Leonard Feather -- featuring a scaled down group known as Duke Ellington's Coronets. The titles credited to the Coronets are "Night Walk (Cat Walk)," "Moonlight Fiesta," "She (Sensuous)," "Swamp Drum," "Sultry Serenade," "Indian Summer," and the "Britt and Butter Blues" which referred to a pair of master trombonists, Britt Woodman and Quentin "Butter" Jackson.
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