Duke Ellington & His World Famous Orchestra (1946-1947)

Duke Ellington

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Duke Ellington & His World Famous Orchestra (1946-1947) Review

by Bruce Eder

This mid-priced triple-CD box (originally five separate LPs) contains 64 tracks recorded by Ellington and his band for radio broadcast between March 28, 1946 and June 10, 1947. This was a period in which the Ellington band was, if anything, underrecorded; he'd ended his longtime stay on RCA-Victor and was moving to Musicraft and then on to Columbia, and the move between labels left Ellington less well represented in the studio than he might otherwise have been with a long-term contract. Included here are eight pieces never before available as full-band recordings, among them "Tip Toe Topic," and a trio recording by Ellington, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Sonny Greer that was never done again. There have been reissues of this material from various sources, drawn from radio transcription discs (which are considered fair game for pirates overseas), but this is the only legitimate version, drawn from pristine privately collected discs, with payments to the musicians involved and their estates. From the opening rendition of "Take the 'A' Train" with a trumpet solo by Taft Jordan, the set is full of surprises, new takes on old numbers, and a handful of numbers new and unique to the box. We get the longest uninterrupted rendition of "Happy-Go-Lucky Local," and the earlier of two contemporary studio versions of Ellington's concerto for Johnny Hodges' sax, "Magenta Haze," plus a last glimpse of some of the best work of Sam Nanton on the version of "The Mooche" featured here; Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton, and Claude Jones share the spotlight in "Fugue-a-Ditty," and "Transblucency" get its studio debut only a few weeks after its premiere at Carnegie Hall. The most marvelous side of the performances here, which combine the freedom of radio broadcast lengths (up to nearly seven minutes, although most of what's here is in the three-four-minute range) two years prior to the introduction of the LP with the best that technology had to offer, is the range of the music; Ellington's music in this era bridges the gap between big-band swing ("Crosstown") and the more intimate and expressive small-group sounds with startling ease, truly beyond category in its range as depicted here. "Passion Flower," "Everything Goes," "Jennie," "The Eighth Veil," "Moon Mist" -- the range of delights contained here, from big-band dance numbers to some of Ellington's most beautiful small-scale impressionist pieces, to some experimental trio pieces, is stunning. There are also a relative handful of vocal numbers, handled by Al Hibbler, Ray Nance, and Kay Davis. None of it ever got much better than this. Oh, and the sound is killer, state of the art, and more than a match for any '40s release one cares to name. The band includes Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney, Shelton Hemphill, Taft Jordan, Cat Anderson, Oscar Pettiford, Sonny Greer, and, on "Passion Flower," Billy Strayhorn sitting in on piano.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
1 Duke Ellington 03:01 Amazon
2 Duke Ellington 02:47 Amazon
3 Duke Ellington 03:31 Amazon
4 Duke Ellington 04:22 Amazon
5 Duke Ellington 04:51 Amazon
6 Duke Ellington 03:05 Amazon
7 Duke Ellington 02:46 Amazon
8 Duke Ellington 01:50 Amazon
9 Duke Ellington 03:52 Amazon
10 Duke Ellington 03:03 Amazon
11 Duke Ellington 02:15 Amazon
12 Duke Ellington 04:26 Amazon
13 Duke Ellington 02:17 Amazon
14 Duke Ellington 02:21 Amazon
15 Duke Ellington 02:00 Amazon
16 Duke Ellington 02:47 Amazon
17 Duke Ellington feat: Al Hibbler 02:48 Amazon
18 Duke Ellington 02:59 Amazon
19 Duke Ellington feat: Al Hibbler 03:07 Amazon
20 Duke Ellington 03:31 Amazon
21 Duke Ellington feat: Ray Nance 02:50 Amazon
22 Duke Ellington 02:51 Amazon
23 Duke Ellington feat: Kay Davis 02:45 Amazon
24 Duke Ellington 03:10 Amazon
25 Duke Ellington 02:56 Amazon
26 Duke Ellington 05:38 Amazon
27 Duke Ellington 03:22 Amazon
28 Duke Ellington 02:28 Amazon
29 Duke Ellington 03:00 Amazon
30 Duke Ellington 03:20 Amazon
31 Duke Ellington 03:12 Amazon
32 Duke Ellington 02:12 Amazon
33 Duke Ellington 03:31 Amazon
34 Duke Ellington 01:50 Amazon
35 Duke Ellington 03:52 Amazon
36 Duke Ellington 03:21 Amazon
37 Duke Ellington 02:48 Amazon
38 Duke Ellington 03:18 Amazon
39 Duke Ellington 04:32 Amazon
40 Duke Ellington 04:25 Amazon
41 Duke Ellington 03:07 Amazon
42 Duke Ellington 02:56 Amazon
43 Duke Ellington 02:43 Amazon
44 Duke Ellington 06:20 Amazon
45 Duke Ellington 05:02 Amazon
46 Duke Ellington 03:38 Amazon
47 Duke Ellington 04:06 Amazon
48 Duke Ellington 03:16 Amazon
49 Duke Ellington 02:37 Amazon
50 Duke Ellington 01:28 Amazon
51 Duke Ellington 03:02 Amazon
52 Duke Ellington 02:28 Amazon
53 Duke Ellington 03:10 Amazon
54 Duke Ellington 03:06 Amazon
55 Duke Ellington 03:31 Amazon
56 Duke Ellington 03:54 Amazon
57 Duke Ellington 03:29 Amazon
58 Duke Ellington 02:57 Amazon
59 Duke Ellington feat: Ray Nance 02:31 Amazon
60 Duke Ellington 02:43 Amazon
61 Duke Ellington feat: Kay Davis 02:14 Amazon
62 Duke Ellington 02:02 Amazon
63 Duke Ellington 02:24 Amazon
64 Duke Ellington 00:30 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick