Duke Ellington

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This mid-'50s Columbia LP collects nine Duke Ellington tracks from the '30s; primarily ballads, they haven't been reissued on CD. Fortunately, these performances were not subjected to the pseudo-stereo remastering that became the craze not long after the release of this album, and the sound is quite good. The slightly exotic "Pyramid" features baritone saxophonist Harry Carney and the gorgeous "A Gypsy Without a Song" showcases Johnny Hodges on alto sax, while the obscure "Finesse," recorded in 1939 but released for the first time on this disc, features a unusual trio consisting of Ellington, Hodges, and bassist Billy Taylor. Probably the most important track is the four-part extended suite "Reminiscing in Tempo;" it's a shame it was only performed three times after its initial recording, but the composer probably figured it wouldn't hold an audience's attention for 13 minutes. Added to the Ellington compositions are low key arrangements of two standards: "(There Is) No Greater Love" and "Moonglow." Although the annotation could have been better, particularly regarding the identification of soloists, this extremely rare LP is easily recommended to Duke Ellington fans.