Given that the 24-disc set The Complete RCA/Victor Recordings was so large it was only for specialized tastes, it was inevitable that the set would be released in excerpts. As it happens, The Best of the Complete Duke Ellington RCA/Victor Recordings: The Mid Forties Recordings is an excerpt of an excerpt, selecting the 18 finest cuts from the three-disc The Complete Victor Mid-Forties Recordings (1944-1946). This isn't a bad thing, by any means, since only affluent fans could afford either of the multi-disc sets, and this single-disc does an excellent job of narrowing down the finest moments from these four years, arguably the best in Ellington's many years of leading superlative bands. Yes, there are some seminal recordings missing from these mere 18 tracks -- how could there not? -- but these all are terrific cuts that illustrate why Ellington and his band were peerless in the mid-'40s. For the fan on a budget, this is an essential sampler.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine