On the Air

Duke Ellington

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On the Air Review

by Michael G. Nastos

Duke Ellington's band was not as prolific as other groups that broadcast shows live on the radio, but these recordings hint at what they did over the airwaves. Complete sessions from 1937 at the Cotton Club in Harlem and the Southland Cafe in Boston from 1940 are available elsewhere. This collection skims the surface, clocking in on CD at a scant total of 42 minutes. The Cotton Club dates feature many of Ellington's best-known pieces like "Sophisticated Lady," "Rockin' in Rhythm," and "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," but the sound is thin and muddy. Production values in Boston are a bit better, but the repertoire is removed from famous, including "Grievin'," "Little Posey," and "Tootin' Through the Roof," among others. Collectors would have interest in the Beantown broadcast, but then again, a search for the comprehensive works from these dates would be a wiser choice.

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