The occasion of Duke Ellington's 100th birthday allowed almost every record label to release their own commemorative release, invariably containing some play on "centennial" in the title. For Louisiana Red Hot Records, they released a two volume set, somewhat confusingly titled Centenary Celebration 1999. The music on these two discs were taken from 78s and reprocessed for stereo by series producer Robert Parker. Naturally, these would have been much better if preserved in mono -- the stereo does sound artificial and, at times, distracting -- but credit has to be given to the compilers for assembling a very enjoyable collection of recordings made between 1930 and 1938, and bothering to detail the musicians, recording dates and 78 catalog numbers, all things uncommon to budget-line collections from smaller labels. That said, this is hardly the place for collectors to go to pick this material up, but casual fans that stumble across this disc at a reasonable price, since there's nothing but great music here. The presentation could have been a little more coherent, and the reprocessed stereo really grates (even though they have instructions in the liners for how to listen to this in its original mono), but the music that's here is good.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: The Harlem Footwarmers