This DVD compiles different short and medium-lenght films of the Duke and his orchestra. Included also assorted musical sequences from other motion pictures.
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.