Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were (and are) two of the main stems of jazz. Any way you look at it, just about everything that's ever happened in this music leads directly – or indirectly – back to them. Both men were born on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, and each became established as a leader during the middle '20s. …
Just the fact that Ellington's extended masterpiece "Reminiscing in Tempo" is included here in its original and continuous form is reason enough to pick up this compilation. Initially recorded in 1935, "Reminiscing" was the first thoroughly composed jazz piece and one that not only demonstrated Ellington's knack for longer forms, but also featured practically all of his singular soloists. Upon its first release, the 13-minute piece was broken up over a few 78s, later making its way into EP form. Currently, the Classics label includes it on one of its Chronological discs, but spread over four distinct tracks. So, this 1991 Columbia release might be the only way to get this great work in its seamless form as it was originally recorded. Collector's concerns aside, this CD was the audio companion to an Ellington documentary aired on PBS. Predictably, it provides something of an overview of Ellington's career, beginning with a recording of "The Mooche" from his Cotton Club days in the late '20s up through a version of "Black Beauty" from 1960.
Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington were (and are) two of the main stems of jazz. Any way you look at it, just about everything that's ever happened in this music leads directly – or indirectly – back to them. Both men were born on the cusp of the 19th and 20th centuries, and each became established as a leader during the middle '20s. Although their paths had crossed from time to time over the years, nobody in the entertainment industry had ever managed to get Armstrong and Ellington into a recording studio to make an album together. On April 3, 1961, producer Bob Thiele achieved what should be regarded as one of his greatest accomplishments; he organized and supervised a seven-and-a-half-hour session at RCA Victor's Studio One on East 24th Street in Manhattan, using a sextet combining Duke Ellington with Louis Armstrong & His All-Stars. This group included ex-Ellington clarinetist Barney Bigard, ex-Jimmie Lunceford swing-to-bop trombonist Trummy Young, bassist Mort Herbert, and drummer Danny Barcelona. A second session took place during the afternoon of the following day.
Columbia's Greatest Hits features many of Duke Ellington's best-known songs and biggest hits, including "Satin Doll," "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Take the 'A' Train," "Solitude," "Mood Indigo," "I'm Beginning to See the Light," "Prelude to a Kiss" and "Perdido." It's a fine sampling of Ellington's most familiar melodies and works as a good introduction for novices.
This 1966 concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles features sets by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, with the source evidently being a soundboard tape. His star soloists consistently shine, especially tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves in the flag-waver "Soul Call" and the ballad "In a Sentimental Mood" (the latter usually a feature for Johnny Hodges). Cootie Williams' brash trumpet is showcased in "Take the 'A' Train," while high-note specialist Cat Anderson squeals in his "Prowling Cat." The drums are a bit too prominent in the mix, the sound is a bit muddy in places, and the microphone does not always pick up the leader's spoken…
This was Duke Ellington's first film score, undertaken at the urging of Anatomy of a Murder's director, Otto Preminger. The full range of the composer's previous work was brought to bear on this 1959 work. Ellington was a natural choice to convey the rich and varied emotional moods of this drama. Tension and release, danger and safety, movement and stillness, darkness and light; the textural palette that was Ellington's signature was always compellingly cinematic.
In these orchestral settings, Duke's soloists (Cat Anderson, Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and others) shine, as their playing reflects true variations on a theme in a classical sense. That's not to say that this set doesn't swing, too – "Happy Anatomy" is a short but fully cranked gallop. This is an album of rich variety and evocative writing.
Duke Ellington's music has long excited Oscar Peterson. So when Pablo, in 1999, decided to assemble a collection of Peterson's interpretations of Ellington favorites, the label had a lot to choose from. Spanning 1967-1986, this collection of Norman Granz-produced Pablo sides reminds us how rewarding a combination Peterson's pianism and the Duke's compositions can be. The most obscure piece on the CD is "Lady of the Lavender Mist," which Ellington recorded in 1947 and quit playing altogether in 1952…
Discovered in Columbia's vaults 19 years after it was performed, this recording features a septet from Duke Ellington's orchestra keeping busy in the studios mostly playing standards and blues. With altoist Johnny Hodges, baritonist Harry Carney, trombonist Lawrence Brown and cornetist Ray Nance all having ample solo space, these renditions are quite enjoyable, swing hard and sound fresh. Ellington fans should pick this one up.
Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years. The two aspects of his career were related; Ellington used his band as a musical laboratory for his new compositions and shaped his writing specifically to showcase the talents of his bandmembers, many of whom remained with him for long periods. Ellington also wrote film scores and stage musicals, and several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards.