Duke Ellington

Complete, Vol. 15: 1939-1940

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AllMusic Review by

The final two-LP set in French CBS's definitive reissue of Duke Ellington's recordings for their associated labels, this package finds the orchestra poised for greatness just prior to switching to RCA. Bassist Jimmy Blanton was now in the band, tenor-saxophonist Ben Webster was aboard by the second half of this set, and such longtime stars as trumpeter Cootie Williams, cornetist Rex Stewart, trombonists Tricky Sam Nanton and Lawrence Brown, clarinetist Barney Bigard and altoist Johnny Hodges were very much in their prime. Hodges, Bigard and Cootie get to lead some small-group sessions, Ellington is heard solo on "Blues", there are two Ellington-Blanton piano-bass duets (which were unpredecented for the time) and the full orchestra backs singer Ivie Anderson on one of her finest sessions. Overall, this series is a brilliant effort that should be duplicated on CD.