This is a good beginner's companion compilation to go with the more recent one released in connection with the Ken Burns Jazz documentary. However, the chronological scope of this one is quite limited. There is one track each from 1928 and 1967, but all of the other 13 tracks were recorded for RCA between 1941-46. However, some well-known songs are found here which are not on the Burns disc, including "I've Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" sung by Ivy Anderson, a version of "Lover Man" sung by Marian Cox, and "Perdido," among others. Many famous Ellington sidemen appear here, including Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, Rex Stewart, and Ben Webster. Ellington's legendary collaborator Billy Strayhorn appears on "Drawing Room Blues," a piano duet with the Duke. Of course, the most well-known and essential songs, like "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)," "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Take the 'A' Train" are all included on this compilation. All these things make this one a more than satisfactory choice as a starter, but as with any Ellington compilation, it is far from complete or definitive. It should be supplemented with other titles to provide a fuller picture of the extraordinary range and diversity of this master of American music.
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AllMusic Review by Steven Jacobetz