Great Britain's Proper imprint has been releasing terrific multi-disc boxed collections by many major artists in the genres of jazz, blues, and country since the 1990s. On occasion, they've also issued double-disc retrospectives. These offerings have been long on detail in terms of not only volume, but great sound, accurate discographical information, and best of all, they retail at a very attractive price point. Which brings us to their single-disc series, A Proper Introduction To. In this case, it's Duke Ellington. First off, for a man who issued well over 400 records during his lifetime, a 20-song collection seems -- and is -- ridiculous. Secondly, even the imprints the great master was most closely affiliated with, Columbia and OKeh, have almost always issued at least a double package to document his bands from the 1920s through the early '60s. The material here -- most of it from the great version of the Duke Ellington Orchestra that included Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster -- is a so-so portrait of that group, but as far as portraying Ellington's development and towering contribution, it's almost a waste. Do yourself a favor: spend a little more green and get a real "proper introduction" to Ellington by purchasing one of the Sony collections (the label that owns the Columbia and OKeh catalogs).
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek