Duke Ellington

Jack the Bear

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Song Review by

Duke Ellington’s career was at one of its highest peaks when he first recorded “Jack the Bear.”

Originally scored differently, Ellington’s collaborator Billy Strayhorn arranged the piece to bring

the revolutionary young bassist Jimmy Blanton to the forefront of the piece. This brisk chart has an unusual construction, with segment of both blues and swing, though the song is basically a blues at heart. In addition to Blanton’s swinging solo and driving rhythm, there are also brief solo choruses by clarinetist Barney Bigard, trumpeter Cootie Williams, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, a

growled trombone solo by Tricky Sam Nanton, as well as its composer at the piano. Even after illness forced Blanton to prematurely leave the band for good the following year, Ellington continued to use it to feature various bassists during concerts. Several transcriptions from the second half of the 1940s have appeared on commercial releases, and both Oscar Pettiford and Duke Ellington recorded separate versions for Bethlehem in 1954. After this period, Ellington called for “Jack the Bear” on just three more occasions, the last being a still unreleased 1970 concert when bassist Rufus Reid substituted for an ailing Joe Benjamin.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Historically Speaking: The Duke 1956 Bethlehem Music Company, Inc. / Rhino 3:20
The Works of Duke, Vol. 9 1974 RCA 3:16
Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Vol. 3: 1943 1986 Circle 3:15
The Blanton-Webster Band 1990 Bluebird RCA 3:15
20 Golden Pieces of Duke Ellington 1991 Bulldog
Duke Ellington [Highland] 1991 Highland Records 3:13
No Image 1992 Black and Blue 0:00
No Image 1994 Giants Of Jazz Recordings
No Image 1994 RCA
Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington [Cassette] 1994 Buddha Records / Buddah 3:16
The Essential Recordings 1996 Le Jazz 3:15
The Centenary Collection [Sanctuary] 1999 Castle Music Ltd. / Sanctuary 3:18
Anniversary 1999 Masters of Jazz 3:12
Classic Duke Ellington 1999 Charly Records 3:17
100 Anniversaire 1999 EPM 3:14
Centenary Celebration 1999, Vol. 3 1999 Louisiana Red Hot Records 3:19
Cotton Tail [History] 1999 History 3:17
The Duke at His Best 1999 Prism Platinum 3:10
Mood Indigo [Jazzterdays] 2000 Jazzterdays (Netherlands)
Cotton Club Stomp [Disky] 2000 Empire DisK / Empire Super Fives 3:10
The Radio Years: 1940-1945 2000 Storyville 3:03
Cotton Club Stomp [Disc 3] 2000 Disky 3:10
Millennium Collection [Digimode] 2000 Digimode Entertainment 3:17
Duke Ellington: Complete Columbia and RCA Victor Sessions 2001 Definitive Classics 3:19
No Image 2001 Nimbus 3:19
Mega Jazz 2001
Various Artists
Wagram Records 3:15
Duke Ellington, Vol. 1 & 2 2001 Platinum Disc 3:19
Duke Ellington, Vol. 2 2001 Platinum Disc 3:19
Ko-Ko 2001 BMG / Dreyfus Jazz
The Duke: Duke Ellington's Masterpieces, Vol. 1 - 1938-1940 2002 Black & Blue 3:19
With a Touch of Class 2002 Recall (UK) 3:18
Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band 2003 Bluebird RCA / Bluebird 3:17
The Duke: Edward Kennedy Ellington and His Orchestra 2003 Proper Sales & Dist. 3:17
The Very Best of Count Basie & Duke Ellington 2004 Platinum Disc 3:19
Golden Era of Jazz, Vol. 6 2006 ZYX Music / Remember Records 3:16
Duke Ellington [BD Jazz] 2008 Nocturne Records 3:18
The Treasury Shows, Vol. 13 2008 Storyville 3:21
Simply Jazz [2012] 2012
Various Artists
Union Square Music 3:19
Treasury Shows, Vol. 23 2017 Ellington Treasury / Storyville 3:16
Duke Ellington: Collection of the Best Big Bands, Vol. 1 2018 New World / Zebralution 3:12