Duke Ellington and his band participated in numerous weekly broadcasts during a good part of the 1940s; this two-CD compilation features three complete programs as they were originally aired. Although these performances fall short of groundbreaking, they have their moments. The two U.S. Treasury Department-sponsored broadcasts, created to promote the sale of war bonds, find Ellington mixing compositions both old and new with current pop songs and an occasional cover of a song associated with other bands.
By far the most interesting tracks are Ellington's newest works. The ballad "Teardrops in the Rain," co-written with trumpeter Cat Anderson, had only been added to the book a few months earlier and was gone by the following year. Rather than high-note theatrics, Anderson sticks to muted trumpet. "Frustration" was first performed in 1944 and was played from time to time through 1960, a great feature for Harry Carney's powerful baritone sax, though this version has a new meaning since it is interrupted by a news flash about the U.S. Senate's approval of membership in the newly created U.N. A revival of the 1936 composition "Trumpet in Spades" (also known as "Rex's Concerto") marks the final performance of the tune by the extraordinary trumpeter Rex Stewart. "Moon Mist" showcases Ray Nance's lyrical violin and the magical Johnny Hodges on alto sax, as well as the mellow trombone of Lawrence Brown. One oddity is "Time's A-Wastin'," which is credited to Johnny Hodges, Taft Jordan, and Lawrence Brown, but is actually an alternate name for Mercer Ellington's well-known blues "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." "Downbeat Shuffle" showcases Carney's bass clarinet, Jimmy Hamilton's clarinet, and the matchless trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton in a swinging arrangement. There are also several vocal numbers, featuring either Joya Sherrill, Kay Davis, or Al Hibbler, though the ladies outshine Hibbler easily. The only reservations are minor. One announcer attempts to introduce a number with several bad puns instead of getting out of the band's way, while another introduces Lawrence Brown as "Larry." It is unfortunate that Ellington was stuck reading bond promo scripts cold several times during each show; no one doubts his patriotism, but he is clearly nervous and uncomfortable. Although this volume has excellent sound considering the vintage of the transcription discs that served as the source material, this compilation will be of most interest to veteran jazz collectors rather than new jazz fans or those with a passing interest in Duke Ellington.