Duke Ellington's brief tenure at Capitol Records (1953-55) is often dismissed by jazz historians who find fault with the sessions' lush, near-orchestral sound or who question the bandleader's decisions to re-record many of his '30s and '40s standards. However, neither criticism holds up. Ellington's 15-member band--featuring stalwarts Cat Anderson, Ray Nance, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney--plays with its usual brilliance, but producer Dave Dexter captures the orchestra with unusual warmth, creating a deep, radiant sound unusual for jazz. Re-recordings of Ellington classics like "Black and Tan Fantasy," "Caravan" and a ten-minute "It Don't Mean A Thing" (featuring a lengthy and inspired tenor improvisation by Gonsalves) in new and often radically different arrangements are shown off to strong advantage in this new sonic ambience. THE BEST OF DUKE ELLINGTON is a long-overdue invitation to re-examine one of Ellington's most fruitful periods.
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AllMusic Review by AllMusic