At the Hollywood Empire: Original 1949 Transcript

Duke Ellington

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At the Hollywood Empire: Original 1949 Transcript Review

by Ken Dryden

Duke Ellington recorded a series of radio transcriptions during an extended engagement at the Hollywood Empire for Jubilee and Just Jazz, the source of the material for this compilation. As well-recorded as these performances are, an egomaniac announcer spoils several tracks by insisting on introducing every soloist in the midst of the actual performances. In spite of this irritating occurrence, the Ellington band is well recorded and in top form, in spite of the decline of most other big bands during this period, as the numerous strikes initiated by union despot James Petrillo helped kill the popularity of instrumental jazz. A good deal of the material consists of lesser known Ellington originals that were dropped from the band book not long after this time frame, though there are plenty of hits as well. Ray Nance steals the show with his vamping vocal in "Tulip or Turnip" (no wonder he was nicknamed "Floorshow") and his signature trumpet solo in "Take the A Train." Johnny Hodges shines in several features, particularly "Passion Flower." Ellington even has a little fun by closing one show with Count Basie's theme song, "One O'Clock Jump." This collection is not for the casual jazz fan, but Ellington collectors will definitely want to acquire this disc of rare performances.

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