Duke Ellington

The Capitol Sessions 1953-1955

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Definitive's 2006 release of an 88-track compendium of Duke Ellington's Capitol recordings dating from the years 1953-1955 illuminates a period during which the man who more than anyone else had perfected the art of big-band jazz during the 1920s, '30s, and '40s had to scuffle to maintain his jazz orchestra at a time when small combos and star vocalists were getting most of the gigs and recording contracts. It is therefore fitting, perhaps, that Ellington chose to record with a trio in between big-band sessions during December 1953, resulting in an album's worth of wonderful chamber jazz that appeared on the Capitol album Piano Reflections. Hearing that material presented in chronologic context with the big-band recordings of 1953-1955 is a special treat. The orchestra was packed with accomplished improvisers; its trumpeters included Clark Terry, Cat Anderson, Willie Cook, Ray Nance and Gerald Wilson, who also exercised his skills as an arranger. Britt Woodman and Juan Tizol anchored the trombone section with Quentin "Butter" Jackson. Reedmen included Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Paul Gonsalves, and Harry Carney. Vocals were delivered by Jimmy Grissom. The LP era was in full swing, allowing for extended performances of "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," "Basin Street Blues," "Flying Home," "In the Mood," "It Don't Mean a Thing," Ellington and Strayhorn's "Gonna Tan Your Hide" and Jimmy Hamilton's "Clarinet Melodrama." This rewarding collection also documents the Duke's unusual dalliance with tunes like "If I Give My Heart to You" (still closely associated with Doris Day), Russ Morgan's "So Long," the "Twelfth Street Rag Mambo" and Ray Anthony's "Bunny Hop Mambo."

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 3:00
2
3:00
3
2:58
4 3:13
5
3:11
6 2:57
7 3:12
8 2:29
9 2:45
10 2:52
11 2:54
12 2:29
13
3:03
14 3:22
15
3:42
16 2:42
17 3:14
18 2:37
19 3:58
20 2:47
21 3:07
22 1:56
23 3:35
24 3:19
25
3:04
26 2:32

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1
2:56
2 3:08
3 2:14
4
2:46
5
2:56
6 5:53
7 2:51
8 3:01
9 2:32
10 2:33
11 2:43
12 3:02
13 3:15
14 2:40
15 4:02
16 2:54
17 6:17
18 2:47
19 2:44
20 2:48
21 6:11
22 2:27
23 3:00
24 3:55
blue highlight denotes track pick