Duke Ellington

Copenhagen (1965), Pts. 1 & 2 [DVD]

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Duke Ellington's career was at a high point in early 1965, when he was constantly creating new works (often in collaboration with Billy Strayhorn) and had retained many of his most valuable soloists (including the entire sax section, intact since Johnny Hodges' return in 1956), plus trumpeters Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, and Ray Nance. This nearly two-hour long DVD, originally videotaped for Danish TV, preserves almost all of the concert as performed (omitting several numbers which may not have been taped). The band was fresh and relaxed after coming to Europe to tour a few days earlier, so all of the soloists are in great form and the ensembles are potent as well. There are numerous highlights. A dazzling treatment of the fairly new composition "Ad Lib on Nippon" (which had not yet appeared on record), features Ellington with bassist John Lamb and Jimmy Hamilton's thrilling clarinet. Tenor saxist Paul Gonsalves shines in the ballad "Chelsea Bridge" and in his turbulent reprise of his famous Newport Jazz Festival solo in "Blow by Blow," though he is inexplicably passed out with his sax in his mouth during the rousing "Perdido." Cat Anderson shares his high note theatrics in "Meow," while veteran trumpeter Cootie Williams' gutbucket mute work is on display in "Tootie for Cootie." Johnny Hodges, considered by Ellington as one of his most important soloists, has a trio of features, punctuated by "Jeep's Blues." Trumpeter Ray Nance, returning for his final hurrah with the band, adds several brief solos and sings in the jive vocal number "He Huffed 'n' He Puffed," a number retired from the book following this concert. Also not to be missed is composer Billy Strayhorn's turn at the piano on the complete version of his "Take the 'A' Train." Well photographed and edited with excellent sound, this DVD is a must have for Duke Ellington fans.

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