Duke Ellington: The Jaywalker (2004)
The Jaywalker collects bits and pieces from the vaults of Ellington recordings the Master made for himself during 1966-1967. It was an impressive edition of the band, with Harry Carney, Cat Anderson, and Lawrence Brown on board, but little in these "unofficial recordings" is as striking as the Ellington output on big labels during the sixties.
Yet this CD deserves attention, particularly for Ellington lovers, because of an exceptional set of nine musical sketches that Ellington composed for an English play, The Jaywalker. "Mac," the sole sketch with a ravishing melody, was later transmuted into T.G.T.T. (Too Good to Title"), a highpoint in Ellington's erratic "Second Sacred Concert." The other compositions are too sketchy to linger in memory long.
So what makes The Jaywalker memorable? The Ellington band is joined by a percussionist, Emmanuel Abdul-Rahim. The empathy between Abdul-Rahim on conga drums and Ellington on piano is as imaginative as anything you'll find in Ellington's output during these years. What Chano Pozo was to Dizzy Gillespie, Abdul-Rahim might have been to Ellington, had they had a longer musical relationship. Odd that Ellington didn't establish more working relationships with conga drummers, but we can be grateful for the ecstatic conversation that Abdul-Rahim and Ellington establish.
The Jaywalker is not essential Ellington, but has value for revealing the Duke's special affection for drummers not purely within a jazz bag.
Track Listing: 1. The Shepherd, 2. Up Jump, 3. Rue Bleu, 4. Chromatic Love Affair, 5. Salome, 6. Blood Count, 7. El Viti, 8. Kixx, 9. Eggo, 10. I'm Hip Too, 11. Amta, 12. Warr, 13. Little Purple Flower, 14. Traffic Cop, 15. Untitled Blues, 16. Policia, 17. The B.O. of Traffic, 18. Mac, 19. Star, 21. Cross Climax, 22. B.O. Man, 23. Tin Soldier
Personnel: Duke Ellington, Cat Anderson, Lawrence Brown, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, John Lamb, Sam Woodyard, Harry Carney, Emmanuel Abdul-Rahim, and more.