The Old Masters was one of the most notorious jazz bootleg record labels because of their obvious belief that all they needed to do was put a famous name like Duke Ellington on their blandly packaged products and hint that there were rare recordings within them, and jazz fanatics would gladly part with their money to snap them up. Like other Ellington releases on this rotten label, the musicians and composers are not listed, the dates of recordings are guessed at by year but not even specified by track (and several of them may not actually be from the given years), and the sound quality never surpasses barely acceptable. Three of the tracks come from a 1957 broadcast that originated at the Blue Note in Chicago, with forgettable vocals by Jimmy Grissom ("Rock City Rock") and Ozzie Bailey ("You Better Know It"), as well as "I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good)." The version of the very obscure "Ain't Nothin' Nothin' Baby," which was performed only a handful of times during 1953 and 1954, doesn't match up with anything in W.E. Timmer's reliable Duke Ellington discography, Ellingtonia, so it seems to be a privately recorded rehearsal acetate made by the composer when he was working on the piece; there's a lot of distortion in the source material as he plays unaccompanied piano and narrates rather than sings the lyrics. It's quite possible that there are Ellington fans seeking this long out-of-print bootleg LP, but they would be advised to spend their money on any of his numerous commercial CDs or LPs instead of wasting time in search of this forgettable album.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden