How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
The success of Ellington’s appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 reinvigorated his career and once again made him a world-wide concert draw at a time when many other big bands were struggling to find work. His appearance at the Alhambra two years later has been circulating in bootleg form for years and is finally available on CD. Although the recording quality isn’t great (blame the poor acoustics of the concert hall), it still captures a lively Ellington band on a typical set list from the time period. Although there are some rough spots (“Take The ‘A’ Train” in particular never seems to catch fire) the band is in fine form throughout. Any Ellington unit is only going to be as good as its soloists, and fortunately this incarnation features some of the best, all of whom were having a good night. Jimmy Hamilton plays some lovely, lilting phrases over “Tenderly” followed by a bouncy flugelhorn solo from Clark Terry. However, Johnny Hodges, a favorite of the Parisian audience, steals the show on three spotlight numbers, including “All Of Me”, which by this time had been mastered by the altoist. Appropriately, the encore is “Diminuedo and Crescendo in Blue” on which Paul Gonsalves reworks his famous solo from Newport that almost single-handedly changed the fortunes of the band overnight. A welcome addition to the catalogue of jazz’s greatest composer.
Track Listing: 1. Take The "A" Train, 2. Black And Tan Fantasy/Creole Love Call/The Mooche, 3. Newport Up, 4. Tenderly, 5. Juniflip, 6. Frustration, 7. Rockin' In Rhythm, 8. Jeep's Blues, 9. All Of Me, 10. Things Ain't What They Used To Be, 11. Jam With Sam, 12. Hi Fi Fo Fum, 13. Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue
Personnel: Duke Ellington and his Orchestra featuring Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Clark Terry, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson, Shorty Baker, Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders, Jimmy Woods, Sam Woodyard.