Best of the California Concerts

Duke Ellington

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Best of the California Concerts Review

by Thom Jurek

Here on a single disc are the finest moments -- according to GNP Crescendo, anyway -- of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra's California concerts in 1953 and 1954. The first took place in Pasadena, and the latter in Los Angeles. The band, of course, was phenomenal, with three of the four trumpet chairs filled by Clark Terry, Cat Anderson, and Ray Nance; with Juan Tizol on one of the trombones; with Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney on two of the saxes; and on "Perdido," bassist Oscar Pettiford sitting in on cello -- the orchestra's bassists were Jimmy Woode and Wendell Marshall. The program is all classic Ellington as opposed to newly recorded material, and the jam part of the 1954 gig is a nine-plus-minute version of "Take the 'A' Train." Vocalist Jimmy Grissom sings a trio of tunes on the earlier gig, including "Do Nothin' Till You Hear from Me," as well. That all said, this is for Ellingtonia collectors only.

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