Duke Ellington

Rare Video Footage [DVD]

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Duke Ellington is featured in a number of film and television clips from several decades in this DVD compilation, although neither sources, dates, nor personnel are identified. Unfortunately, related segments aren't necessarily in sequence. The first two tracks come from a television broadcast (the 1962 special The Good Years of Jazz), featuring trumpeter Ray Nance on both muted and open horn in "Take the 'A' Train," and both the leader and bassist Aaron Bell in "Satin Doll." The film A Bundle of Blues features vocalist Ivie Anderson and trombonist Lawrence Brown in "Stormy Weather," one of a handful of times Ellington recorded this standard. Then it's back to 1962 with tenorist Paul Gonsalves' rousing blues solo in "Blow by Blow," followed by "Jam with Sam" which includes choruses by Gonsalves, Brown, Russell Procope (in a rare featured appearance on alto sax), plus all five members of the trumpet section (Shorty Baker, Bill Berry, Nance, and Ed Mullens, with high note specialist Cat Anderson closing it out) in "Jam with Sam." The next performance is mislabeled "Bundle of Blues," though it is from the 1933 film; it is actually "Rockin' in Rhythm," showcasing trumpeter Cootie Williams. From 1962,"Things What They Used to Be" brings alto sax great Johnny Hodges center stage, followed by "V.I.P. Boogie" with baritonist Harry Carney and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton. Next is a rhythm section feature, "Kinda Dukish," which is primarily a showcase for drummer Sam Woodyard. "Bugle Call Rag" (once again from the 1933 film A Bundle of Blues), mainly showcases three shake dancers. Track 11 is mislabeled "I Got Rhythm," any Ellington fan will recognize his "Rockin' in Rhythm" immediately; this performance looks as if it's from a early-'60s television broadcast. The final selection is an early version of "Black and Tan Fantasy," from the film Black and Tan with Ellington playing an upright piano for a bedridden woman's dying request, adding his band and the Hall Johnson Choir (a gospel group) in the shadows. The liner notes by Simon Cox are amateurish, as he obviously doesn't have a clue to the source of these performances nor does he bother to correctly spell Paul Gonsalves' name. A little more effort could have been shown by the label to improve the audio and video, but it seems more like these came from dubs in private hands rather than master sources. The miserly DVD length of under 45 minutes is another disappointment.

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