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Two Hundred Fifty-Plus Words on Ellington, Part II
Duke Ellington Uptown
was released shortly after Ellington adopted the 12-inch long player philosophy and began recording his concert of some of his greatest pieces. Before the present release, this recording was issued on three different occasions, each released including slightly different material. The original release (Columbia ML 4639) contained the opening five tracks: "Skin Deep," "The Mooche," "Take The 'A' Train," "A Tone Parallel To Harlem," and "Perdido." The second release, entitled HiFi Ellington Uptown (CL 830) replaced "A Tone Parallel to Harlem" with "The Controversial Suite." The third version (CL 848) traded "Perdido" for "The Liberian Suite."
Finally, the current Ellington Uptown unites all of these versions on a single disc with digital remastering. The result is a voluminous big band sound coupled with exceptional composition and orchestration, even on the lesser-known pieces. A young and brash Louis Bellson provides the opening piece, "Skin Deep," where he capable demonstrates his all-encompassing ability to drive a band. "The Mooche" and "Take the 'A' Train" bristle with vitality and invention in their extended version, the latter given a bebop flavor by vocalist Betty Roche.
The centerpiece is "A Tone Parallel to Harlem," a piece that justifies all of Wynton Marsalis’ extended jazz composition catalog. Harry Carney demonstrates his importance to the Ellington Orchestra with his bass clarinet. The center of this piece is country brass band playing a civil war tune before hitting NYC again for the coda. The two suites included are prime Ellington musings. Perhaps not the best known, but essential nevertheless. This is an important and complete release of Ellington material.