Duke Ellington

The Treasury Shows, Vol. 16

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The 16th volume of Duke Ellington's Treasury Shows from the World War II era contain two complete programs, in addition to excerpts of other transcribed broadcasts from earlier in the decade. When Ellington was given this opportunity to gain exposure for his band, when the Musician's Union recording ban kept him out of the studio, he was able to build his audience while showing his patriotism, assisting the U.S. government in the sales of war bonds, and reading several fundraising scripts during the show. A typical program included hits, pop songs, new compositions, and occasional guests. Both shows are from November 1945; although the war was over, bond sales were still emphasized to pay for care and rehabilitation of wounded veterans, rebuilding efforts overseas, and to keep inflation down with the sudden increase in the money supply. The pristine condition of the source transcription discs and excellent recording make these shows of special interest to Ellington collectors. One of the highlights of the first show include "Frustration," a feature for Harry Carney's robust baritone sax that remained in the band book for 15 years, though performed only sporadically. "9.20 Special," penned by Count Basie tenor saxophonist Earle Warren as a feature for Coleman Hawkins, marks the leader's affinity for train songs, having written a few of his own. Johnny Hodges' "Crosstown" was premiered on this occasion, though this playful jump tune disappeared from the book after a few performances. Ellington's "Cottontail" had a long life in his repertoire; it premiered in 1940 and played until the end of his career. The tenor soloist on this version is the relatively unheralded Al Sears, who fills Ben Webster's shoes very well, in addition to an energetic trumpet solo by Cat Anderson. The second show, recorded the following week, is marked by two personnel changes: the arrival of the accomplished bassist Oscar Pettiford and the loss of star trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton, who had suffered a stroke. Pettiford shines in the solo spotlight of "Jack the Bear," written as a show piece for bassist Jimmy Blanton, whose career and life were cut short by tuberculosis. The pop song "I Can't Begin to Tell You" offers an opportunity to hear Carney's skills as a bass clarinet soloist. This Treasury broadcast ends after roughly a half-hour, evidently truncated by a football broadcast. The remaining material comes from various air checks in 1943 and 1945, though the audio quality isn't at the level of the Treasury Shows. The notable tracks include the exotic "Bakiff" featuring Ray Nance on violin, and a romp through "Ring Dem Bells." But the brief (and sometimes interrupted) songs, along with a dreadful, condescending interview of Ellington by a hapless announcer, make these portions less noteworthy.

Track Listing - Disc 1

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 00:41
2 02:52
3 00:53
4
04:04
5 04:02
6
01:06
7 02:28
8 03:57
9 03:01
10 03:36
11
01:39
12 01:13
13 03:35
14 00:46
15 12:13
16
01:22
17
02:04
18
02:13
19 03:12
20 03:16
21 02:02
22 02:06
23 03:01
24 01:57
25 04:26

Track Listing - Disc 2

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 00:48
2 01:50
3 03:40
4 03:56
5
00:50
6
02:16
7 02:04
8 03:16
9 03:28
10 02:39
11 01:18
12 03:34
13 00:24
14
00:35
15 01:51
16 00:14
17
01:41
18
02:03
19 04:30
20
01:32
21 02:44
22 00:14
23
01:39
24 03:55
25 00:26
26 02:30
27 02:40
28 02:10
29 03:20
30 02:21
31 00:21
blue highlight denotes track pick