New CDs of Duke Ellington music from vaults and archives provide more evidence of how amazingly prolific he and his band were, while the Claude Bolling tribute compilation proves how strong Ellington repertoire can be in the right hands.
The most exciting and impressive CD here for Ellingtonians is New York New York: 19 previously unreleased tracks, including 13 new titles, recorded by the Duke and his orchestra between 1970 and 1972. Although Billy Strayhorn had been gone three years, the Duke continued to produce new music copiously. The first four tracks are all previously unheard works: two short, atmospheric settings for Norris Turney's flute ("Flute" and "Soft"); "Rext," a typical shuffle blues feature for tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves and "Mixt," one of those AfroLatin rhythm-tinged impressionistic travelogues, featuring Gonsalves as breathy sensualist. Wild Bill Davis, in the band for much of the period covered here, has an organ solo on the latter and also contributes two originals. Rick Henderson, who brought bebop to the band's alto chair in the '50s, brings three original compositions/arrangements but the rest of the music is all Ellington. There are evolving versions of pieces from the suites "Afro-Eurasion Eclipse" and "New Orleans" and two excellent blues-based numbers, "Big Luv" and "No Title," that deserve wider hearing. "Looking for My Man" has a gritty Nell Brookshire vocal while Anita Moore, a fine Ellington vocalist rarely heard on record, sings "I'm Afraid (Of Loving You Too Much)" and the title song, an Ellington original, not the Frank Sinatra one. Two old 'hits' are given unique readings as well: "Sophisticated Lady" with a bright, Latin beat and "Mood Indigo" with solos from trombonist Tyree Glenn, tenor saxophonist Harold Ashby and trumpeter Johnny Coles.
There's a lot of repertoire overlap from the previous volume in the radio transcriptions on The Treasury Shows, Vol. 13 two-CD album. There's a mix of Ellington pieces, old and new, versions of current pop songs and vocals from Kay Davis, Joya Sherrill, Al Hibbler and Ray Nance. "Fancy Dan," a 32-bar swinger, is premiered, full of Ellington trademarks like mixed horn shouts, two-bar solo breaks and low-range backgrounds under Al Sears' tenor sax solo. Strayhorn's creativity with pop ditties is on display with the wah-wah brass on "Lily Belle" and Harry Carney bass clarinet lead on "I'll Be Walking with My Honey." Of special interest is "Teardrops In the Rain," with co-composing credit for Cat Anderson, who has a lyrical muted trumpet turn.
In a more egalitarian American musical world, A Tone Parallel to Harlem, sometimes inaccurately called "Harlem Suite," would be right up there at the top of American compositions with Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue." The Claude Bolling Big Band's version makes a strong case for the through-composed tone poem as an essential repertoire piece for jazz orchestras. In the last decade of the 20th Century, when all but two of the tracks on this CD were recorded, Bolling's French band was a much better interpreter of Duke's music than the official Ellington ghost bands. Except for a slightly muffed ending, Bolling's Harlem gives us a slightly more romantic, legato version of a major Ellington classic. And the rest of the album is equally good at conveying an Ellingtonian spirit, with modernizing Gallic touches on the older tunes like "Ring Dem Bells" and "Creole Love Call," the latter with a captivating wordless vocal from the single-named Maud. Along with the 13 Ellington tracks are two commendable Bolling homages and worthy additions to Ellingtonia. And don't miss the three solo piano tracks by him, especially the very Ducal-fingered "Drop Me Off in Harlem" and "Caravan."
Tracks and Personnel
New York New York
Tracks: Rext; Flute; Soft; Mixt; Alerado; Afrique; Second Line; Sophisticated Lady; Big Luv; I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good; Looking For My Man; No Title; Pretty Girl; Dreaming By The Fire; Pat Your Feet; Mood Indigo; I'm Afraid; New York, New York.
The Treasury Shows Vol. 13
Tracks: Someone; Riff Staccato; Homesick, That'Sall; Kissing Bug; (Theme)Take The "A" Train; (Theme) Take The "A" Train; Time'S A-Wastin'; Bond Promo; Three Cent Stomp; There'S No You; Fancy Dan; Everything But You; Ficklefling; Bond Promo; Blue Serge; Takethe"A"Train; Stompy Jones; Walkin' With My Honey; Lily Belle; Everything But You; In A Mellotone; Solid Old Man; I Ain'T Got Nothin' But The Blues; Blue Skies; Suddenly It Jumped; Take The "A" Train; (Theme) Takethe"A" Train; Main Stem; Carnegie Blues; I Can'T Believe That You'Re In Love With Me; Bond Promo; What Am I Here For?; Lily Belle; Homesick, That'S All; Go Away Blues; Frantic Fantasy; If You Are But A Dream; Bond Promo; Jack The Bear; Every Hour On The Hour; Cotton Tail; Lament In A Minor Mood (Way Low); Bond Promo; Teardrops In The Rain; I Ain'T Got Nothin' But The Blues; Things Ain'T What It Used To Be.
A Tone Parallel to Harlem
Tracks: Harlem; Ring dem bells; Things ain't that they use to be; Creole love call; Drop me off in harlem; It don't mean a thing; Just squeeze me; Caravan; Harlem air shaft; Moon mist; Jungle traps; Duke on my mind; Lot o fingers; Magenta haze; Diminuendo in blue.