A big band with Gerry Mulligan and Milt Hinton at the bottom, Paul Desmond and Clark Terry at the top, and an all-star cast in the middle makes this previously unissued session quite special. At the end, Duke Ellington sits down at the piano and performs a solo improvisation that he dedicated to Mrs. Pat Nixon. The President awarded Ellington the Medal of Freedom that day. It was the maestro's 70th birthday: April 29, 1969. Preserved on tape and broadcast overseas on the Voice of America, this program has remained in seclusion.
Mulligan's unconventional arrangement of "Prelude to a Kiss" comes as quite a surprise. Emotional conversations between Mulligan and Desmond, Green and Johnson, and Terry with Mulligan, make the up-tempo affair rock heartily. Four of the songs are interpreted without the full ensemble, by piano trios. Special features include Jim Hall on "In a Sentimental Mood," Desmond on "Chelsea Bridge," Mulligan on "Warm Valley" and "Sophisticated Lady," Johnson on "Satin Doll," Terry on "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me," Berry on "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart," Joe Williams on two piercing, emotional pieces and one swinger, Mary Mayo on four lovely ballads and Louie Bellson on a romping "Caravan." The session has high points all through it. A little loose in places and yet highly recommended, this all-star program airs jazz the way it's supposed to be.
Track Listing: Take the 'A' Train; medley: I Got it Bad / Chelsea Bridge / Satin Doll / Sophisticated Lady / Just Squeeze Me / I Let a Song Go Out of my Heart / Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me / Don't Get Around Much Anymore / In a Mellotone; In a Sentimental Mood; Prelude to a Kiss; Ring Dem Bells; medley: Drop Me Off in Harlem / All Too Soon / It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Perdido; Warm Valley; Caravan; Mood Indigo; medley: Prelude to a Kiss / I Didn't Know About You; Praise God and Dance; Come Sunday; Heritage; Jump for Joy; Pat.
Personnel: Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Hank Jones, Billy Taylor- piano; Paul Desmond- alto saxophone; Gerry Mulligan- baritone saxophone; Jim Hall- guitar; Urbie Green, J.J. Johnson- trombone; Bill Berry, Clark Terry- trumpet; Milt Hinton- bass; Louie Bellson- drums; Joe Williams, Mary Mayo- vocal.