Five years after the widely fêted Duke Ellington centennial, record companies are findingor at least finding ways to remarketstill more treasure from the seemingly endless trove of Ellingtonia.
Bluebird's latest, a 2-disc CD/DVD/audio/video collection, offers a fine overview of the 1927-1942 Ellington Orchestra, a period that spans the heyday of the legendary trumpeter Bubber Miley through the too-brief tenure of the virtuoso bassist Jimmy Blanton. Splendid renditions of classic tunes like "Black and Tan Fantasy," "The Mooche," "Mood Indigo," "Solitude," and "Perdido" are heard here, highlighting the awesome sonic power of the band, as well as the individual talents of stars like Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Ray Nance and Ben Webster. While most of the selections are available elsewhereincluding on Bluebird's massive 24-disc set, The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition the new release includes seven previously unissued tracks culled from the 1941 radio broadcasts by the justly celebrated Blanton/Webster band, all in remarkably good sound quality.
The set's video component is even more valuable, drawing together eight films Duke made between 1934 and 1943, including the musically ambitious though visually hackneyed "Symphony in Black," with Billie Holiday on vocals and "Record Making with Duke Ellington," with vocalist Ivie Anderson, an early look at the orchestra in the studio. In addition, there are five "soundies"the music videos of their dayfrom 1941, featuring some of Duke's best-known hits like "Flamingo" (with vocalist Herb Jeffries), "Sophisticated Lady" and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." The album closes with an illuminating eleven-minute audio interview with the ever-charming maestro, also previously unreleased.
More rare Ellingtonia, from a much later period, is unearthed on The Jaywalker , a compilation of tracks privately recorded by Duke himself from 1965 to 1967. Many of these are works in progress, some apparently intended for a little-known theatrical production. The compositions are heard in somewhat rudimentary form, with a number of false starts, but are fascinating for their revelations into Ellington's creative process and his studio interplay with his musicians, including mainstays like Paul Gonsalves, Lawrence Brown and Cootie Williams and the inimitable Johnny Hodges. Not essential, but an interesting peek behind the scenes at the man and his orchestra at work.
Tracks: 1. Black and Tan Fantasy (3:12); 2. East St. Louis Toodle-O (3:39); 3. The Mooch (3:34); 4. Old Man Blues (3:09); 5. Mood Indigo Bigard, (3:10); 6. Rockin' in Rhythm Carney, (2:56); 7. Stomp Jones (3:04); 8. Solitude (3:31); 9. Jack the Bear (3:17); 10. Ko-Ko (2:43); 11. Concerto for Cootie (3:21); 12. Dusk (3:22); 13. Perdido (3:12); 14. Are You Sticking? [#] (3:48); 15. Chelsea Bridge [#] (4:38); 16. Love Like This Can't Last [#] (2:40); 17. Moon Mist [#] (3:26); 18. It's Square, But It Rocks [#] (2:13); 19. In a Mellow Tone [#] (2:42); 20. Sepia Panorama [#] (2:42); 21. Paramount Headliner As-3: Symphony in Black; 22. Paramount Pictorial P7-2, Pt. 3: Record Making With Duke Ellington; 23. Hot Chocolate (Cotton Tail); 24. I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good; 25. Flamingo; 26. Bli-Blip; 27. Jam Session: C Blues/C Jam Blues; 28. Jamboree #7; 29. Interview With Duke Ellington [#].
Personnel: Hayes Alvis: String Bass; Ivie Anderson: Vocals; Louis Bacon: Trumpet; Harold Baker: Trumpet; Barney Bigard: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Jimmy Blanton: String Bass; Wellman Braud: Sousaphone, String Bass; Lawrence D. Brown: Trombone; Marie Bryant: Vocals; Harry Carney: Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone; Duke Ellington: Piano, Arranger; Sonny Greer: Drums, Maracas; Fred Guy: Banjo, Guitar; Jimmy Hamilton: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Otto Hardwick: Alto Saxophone, Baritone Saxophone; Johnny Hodges: Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone; Billie Holiday: Vocals; Randy Jackson: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Herb Jeffries: Vocals; Freddy Jenkins: Trumpet; Nat Jones: Alto Saxophone; Wallace Jones: Trumpet; Taft Jordan: Trumpet, Vocals; Louis Metcalf: Trumpet; Bubber Miley: Trumpet; Ray Nance: Trumpet, Violin, Vocals; Joe Tricky: Sam Nanton Trombone; Alvin Raglin: String Bass; Rex Stewart: Cornet; Billy Strayhorn: Arranger; Juan Tizol: Valve Trombone; Ben Webster: Arranger, Tenor Saxophone; Arthur Whetsol: Trumpet; Paul White: Vocals; Cootie Williams: Trumpet; Sandy Williams: Trombone.
Tracks: 1. The Shepherd [Take 2] (6:29); 2. Up Jump [Take 4] (3:06); 3. Rue Bleu [Take 2] (3:02); 4. Chromatic Love Affair [Take 1] (4:02); 5. Salomé [Take 1] (4:14); 6. Blood Count [Take 1] (3:50); 7. El Viti [Take 3] (3:27); 8. Kixx [#] (3:55); 9. Eggo [#] (5:37); 10. I'm Hip Too [#] (0:36); 11. Amta [#] (2:51); 12. Warr [#] (4:23); 13. Little Purple Flower [#] (4:32); 14. Traffic Cop [Take 1] (3:50); 15. Untitled Blues [Take 1] (4:52); 16. Policia [Take 1] (1:42); 17. The B.O. of Traffic [Take 3] (0:43); 18. Mac [Take 5] (2:37); 19. Traffic Extension [Take 1] (5:37); 20. Star [Take 1] (0:54); 21. Cross Climax [Take 3] (0:27); 22. B.O. Man [Take 5] (3:11); 23. Tin Soldier [*] (2:24).
Personnel: Cat Anderson: Trumpet; Lawrence D. Brown: Trombone; Harry Carney: Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Baritone Saxophone; Chris Columbo: Drums; Chuck Connors: Trombone; Buster Cooper: Trombone; Duke Ellington: Piano; Mercer Ellington: Trumpet; Paul Gonsalves: Tenor Saxophone; Jimmy Hamilton: Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone; Johnny Hodges: Alto Saxophone, Soloist; Herbie Jones: Trumpet; Rufus "Speedy" Jones: Percussion, Drums; John Lamb: Bass; Russell Procope: Clarinet, Alto Saxophone; Cootie Williams: Trumpet, Soloist; Sam Woodyard: Drums.