Duke Ellington

Live at Carnegie Hall Dec. 11, 1943 [Storyville]

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Between 1943 and 1948, Duke Ellington & His Orchestra typically made one or more annual trips to perform at Carnegie Hall. His second performance of December 11, 1943, is not historically equal to the January concert, which marked the debut of his complete tone poem "Black, Brown & Beige" (played complete on only one other occasion a few days later in Boston), though the sound on this two-CD set fares better than the somewhat deteriorated source material for the first Carnegie Hall concert. The music is a mix of both old and new songs from the Ellington songbook, popular hits of the day, and the inevitable medley of the pianist's most requested numbers. Illness kept singer Betty Roche from performing and limited valve trombonist Juan Tizol exclusively to section work, but the band is otherwise intact and in good form. There are a number of excellent solo features, including violinist Ray Nance in "Take the 'A' Train" (without addition of the jive vocals that became his trademark), trumpeter Shorty Baker on "Stardust," bassist Junior Raglin in "Jack the Bear," and the legendary alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges in "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Oddly enough, this is not an aircheck, but discs the bandleader had recorded for his own purposes. Though the sound isn't flawless, Ellington fans will appreciate the opportunity to hear an entire concert from a period in the middle of one of James Petrillo's idiotic recording bans.

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