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And, of course this was the time of two of the most important musical relationships that Duke ever had throughout his career. First was the addition of Jimmy Blanton on bassreplacing Braud and Taylor. Duke first heard Blanton with Fate Marable and sat in later. He proceeded to try and trick Blanton into faltering as he rang in the changes. But Blanton was always in step, following the Duke as if he had anticipated what was coming next. Naturally, Duke decided that Blanton was his after this...naturally. And finally there was the introduction to Billy Strayhorn, who was to become, as Duke once said: "my right arm, my left arm... all the eye in the back of my head...my brain waves in his head and his in mine." There probably was no closer musical relationship that Ellington's and Strayhorn's... none that was so rich and indelible... So much so that there were times when one could not tell the two apartnot at the piano, nor in the music...And it all began here, with these bewitching small group recordings. I put on the first of seven CDs and amid the hiss of the tape on which they were once recorded, the eyes grow moist and the heart stops the breath as some of the most memorable music ever committed to tape begins to growl, then turn smooth... then, as some of the musical history of the 1930s and 1940s, unfolds a dance with Duke Ellington, body heart and soul begins...
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.