In the process of offering a survey of great Ellington vocalists, this collection provides a seredipitous overview of the sound of the band itself from the 1930s through the 1950s. Of course, Ellington's output was enormous, and enormously varied, and no one collection of 16 tracks could do the diversity of his oevre justice, but focusing on vocal arrangements provides an intriguing window on this situation. Among other pleasures, this collection provides the thrill of going to the source. "It Don't Mean A Thing," is heard here in its debut incarnation, with Ivie Anderson's stealthy opening scat, and wah--wah plunger riffs played by the very trumpet section that was in the process of defining that style for all time. Duke brought a number of singers into the spotlight, including Anderson, Al Hibbler, and Kay Davis, whose wordless vocalizing on "On A Turquoise Cloud" is reminiscent of her equally evocative contribution to "Minnehaha" (SIR DUKE, Drive Archive). The Ellington band also backed up its share of established popular stars; Bing Crosby, Ehtel Waters, the Mills Brothers, Rosemary Clooney and Jimmy Rushing are all represented here.
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