Because Duke Ellington recorded so much music during a career spanning a half century, it is obvious that some of his work has been overlooked. This third two-record compilation released by Columbia in the years after his death in 1974 primarily focuses on less well-known tracks recorded between 1951 and 1957. Although there aren't any major revelations, it provides an opportunity to hear less widely heard soloists in the band, especially trumpeter Nelson Williams ("Brown Betty") and alto saxophonist Willie Smith ("Please Be Kind"). There are also several previously unissued tracks that were released for the first time in this collection: "Duet" (showcasing clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton and bassist Wendell Marshall), "I Love My Lovin' Lover" (featuring singer Betty Roche), "A-Flat Minor" (Johnny Hodges and Paul Gonsalves), "Café au Lait" (Ray Nance), and "Improvisation in Three Parts," a rare opportunity to hear Ellington compose on the spot at the piano with a rhythm section. The only downside to this collection is the addition of the electronically enhanced pseudo-stereo, which especially wreaks havoc with some of the vocal numbers. But this set is among the most valuable volume of the anthologies assembled by Columbia.
AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden