This 1975 reissue compilation features Duke Ellington during a period of transition between 1947-1951, when touring big bands became all but extinct, which was also a period when he had his most serious loss of personnel. Like the proceeding volume, this two-record set features a number of less-familiar works, although there is a successful remake of "Creole Love Call" with Kay Davis' excellent wordless vocal and the standard "On the Sunny Side of the Street" showcasing Johnny Hodges and singer Lu Elliott. Other songs introduced during this time frame ("V.I.P.'s Boogie," "Jam With Sam," and "Love You Madly") all became popular concert features and were still being performed a decade later.
One of Ellington's most atypical compositions from this era is "Clothed Woman," a multi-faceted mini-suite focusing on his piano playing in a small-group setting. Both Billy Strayhorn's "Snibor" and his "Eighth Veil" have well stood the test of time. "Monologue" was a popular piece about a young woman entering the big city, which gave
audiences a chance to hear the bandleader in the role of a narrator, though this expanded 1951 version later gave way to just a trio of clarinets when performed on-stage.
But the most remarkable achievement by Ellington is his successful replacement of Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, and Sonny Greer when they left to form a small group in 1951. Willie Smith, Juan Tizol, and Louis Bellson came onboard in their places, plus Paul Gonsalves and Britt Woodman were added, and high-note trumpet specialist Cat Anderson returned to the fold. The only shortcoming of this anthology is the addition of electronically created pseudo-stereo, though that should not prevent Ellington fans from seeking
this now-difficult-to-find album.