Awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966, Duke Ellington called his music "American music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond" category. He remains one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music and is widely considered one of the 20th century's best composers and band leaders. Ellington's reputation has increased since his death in 1974, with thematic repackagings of his signature music often becoming best sellers. Posthumous recognition of his work include a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board. This 1956 session features Ellington and 14 sidemen performing updated recordings of some of the best from Ellington's career going back to 1926.
The widely heralded recordings made of Duke Ellington & His Orchestra during a 1940 concert in Fargo, ND, have been justifiably praised for their historic value as well as for the surprisingly good sound obtained by a pair of young amateur engineers with a portable disc cutter. Both the soloists and Ellington's unique-sounding blend of reeds and brass are very distinct. Some of these tracks previously appeared on the Jazz Society label, followed by a Book-of-the Month Club set, and all of them appeared on the now-defunct Vintage Jazz Classics, but this latest version tops them all for sound quality.
There's nobody like Bobby Blue Bland on Duke Records – especially during the early years that are featured on this collection! Bland came out of Memphis with a very unique, really amazing sound right from the start – an approach to blues that was a lot more sophisticated than most of his contemporaries, even those on the LA scene – with lots of jazz in his phrasing, and his backings as well – and this sublime vocal approach that often had Bobby growling in a way that seemed to come from deep down in the depths of his soul, but never in any sort of gimmicky sort of style. Bland was always the perfect balance of cool, class, and outright blues power – and that was never more true than on these sides.