Even to jaded bargain-hunters in the 1970s, this budget item on drugstore shelves must have come as a shocking surprise. RCA's low-rent Camden line, mostly known for thrown-together, undocumented catalogue repackagings on the cheap, came up with a valuable double-LP scoop from its earliest Ellington archives right under the noses of even well-informed jazz collectors. Included are many of the most famous Cotton Club-era numbers ("East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," "The Mooche," "Ring Dem Bells," "Jubilee Stomp"), masterpieces from the immediately surrounding periods ("Black And Tan Fantasie," "Rockin' in Rhythm," even the lengthy "Creole Rhapsody"), and several covers of period standards. The records are in electronic stereo but the remastered sound is actually pretty good - far more listenable, indeed, than many of the CD era' s NoNoise desecrations of this material. Not only that, the package also comes with good liner notes by Dan Morgenstern and, amazingly enough, recording dates. All for a mere $3.98! Even today, it's hard to do much better than this if you want an early Ellington anthology.
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AllMusic Review by Richard S. Ginell