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Duke Ellington Is “In Grand Company” with Ella, Basie, Satchmo, Coltrane and More

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Duke Ellington - In Grand CompanyThe legendary composer-arranger-pianist-bandleader Duke Ellington is In Grand Company on a new collection of the same name from Starbucks Entertainment, Columbia Records and Legacy Recordings.  Much has been written of Ellington’s fertile creative partnership with “Take the ‘A’ Train” composer Billy Strayhorn, and indeed, Strayhorn is represented on this disc.  But he’s just one of the many, varied artists represented on this collection’s fifteen tracks.  Spanning four decades of recording on many labels,  In Grand Company explores the Duke as collaborator, with luminaries from the worlds of jazz (John Coltrane, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald), big band (Tommy Dorsey, Count Basie), pop (Rosemary Clooney) and gospel (Mahalia Jackson).

The earliest track on In Grand Company dates all the way back to 1940, when Ellington teamed with bassist Jimmie Blanton for “Pitter Panther Patter” (heard here in Take 2).  The collection’s most recent performance, 1972’s “Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear from Me” was recorded by the then-73-year old Ellington and the much younger Ray Brown, 45.  Appropriately, it came from the album This One’s for Blanton, on which Ellington celebrated the life of his one-time bassist who died in 1942 at the age of 23.  In between, the compilation offers a selection of Ellington’s most definitive collaborative performances.  He proved himself sympathetic to vocalists when he teamed with Rosemary Clooney on the 1956 album Blue Rose, from which “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good)” is excerpted.  Ella Fitzgerald recorded an entire album of Duke’s standards in 1957 as part of her groundbreaking Songbook series; “I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues” is the selection included here.  Mahalia Jackson is featured on a segment of Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige suite, written in 1943 and recorded, in revised form, in 1958.  (Too bad a song from Ellington’s pairing with his Reprise Records chief and labelmate, Frank Sinatra, couldn’t be included.)

There’s much more on Ellington after the jump, including the full track listing and order link!

There are numerous appearances here by instrumental superstars, as well.  A 1961 take of “Jumpin’ at the Woodside” pits Ellington’s big band against that of his longtime “friendly rival” Count Basie for a fun, swinging session; the very same year, Ellington and Louis Armstrong made sweet music together on tracks such as Ellington’s credo “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).”  Another renowned trumpeter, Dizzy Gillespie, appears on “U.M.M.G.” from the recently-reissued Columbia album Jazz Party.  John Coltrane brought his unmistakable tenor saxophone to “In a Sentimental Mood” from the 1963 Duke Ellington and John Coltrane quartet LP, while another tenor great, Coleman Hawkins, joined Ellington for 1962’s Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins.  Ellington’s then-new composition, “Self-Portrait (Of the Bean)” took its name from one of the Hawk’s nicknames.

In Grand Company is handsomely packaged, as is customary for Starbucks’ CD releases.  The digipak features a die-cut cover and the 16-page booklet fits comfortably in a pocket.  Compilation producer Steven Stolder provides three pages of introductory notes as well as copious track-by-track annotations.  Maurice Gainen has remastered all tracks.  This intriguingly delicious tribute to the ever-relevant genius of Ellington is available now directly from Starbucks’ online store or at your local outpost of the coffee giant.  (And it’s highly recommended as a companion disc to Legacy Recordings’ Complete Columbia Albums Collection 1951-1958!)

Duke Ellington, In Grand Company (Starbucks/Columbia/Legacy 88765416922, 2013)

  1. Jumpin’ at the Woodside – Count Basie with Duke Ellington and His Orchestra
  2. It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) – Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington
  3. I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But the Blues – Ella Fitzgerald with the Duke Ellington Orchestra
  4. The Minor Goes Muggin’ – Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with Duke Ellington
  5. Pitter Panther Patter (Take 2) – Duke Ellington and Jimmie Blanton
  6. I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) – Rosemary Clooney with Duke Ellington and Company
  7. U.M.M.G. – Duke Ellington featuring Dizzy Gillespie
  8. Self Portrait (Of the Bean) – Duke Ellington and Coleman Hawkins
  9. Caravan – Duke Ellington (with Max Roach and Charles Mingus)
  10. In a Sentimental Mood – Duke Ellington and John Coltrane
  11. Solitude – Sathima Bea Benjamin (with Duke Ellington, piano)
  12. String Along with Strings – Duke Ellington (with Svend Asmussen and Stéphane Grappelli)
  13. Do Nothin’ ‘Till You Hear from Me – Duke Ellington and Ray Brown
  14. Part IV (Come Sunday) – Duke Ellington and Mahalia Jackson
  15. Drawing Room Blues – Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn

Track 1 from First Time! The Count Meets the Duke, Columbia LP CS 8515, 1962
Track 2 from The Great Reunion, Roulette LP SR 52103, 1963
Track 3 from Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook, Verve LP MGV 4010-4, 1957
Track 4 recorded 1945, included on CD on Centennial Edition: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings 1927-1973, RCA Victor CD 090266338627, 2000
Track 5 recorded 1939, included on CD on Solos, Duets and Trios, Bluebird CD 2178-2-RB, 1990
Track 6 from Blue Rose, Columbia LP CL 872, 1956
Track 7 from Ellington Jazz Party, Columbia LP CS 8127, 1959
Track 8 from Duke Ellington Meets Coleman Hawkins, Impulse! LP AS-26, 1962
Track 9 from Money Jungle, United Artists LP UAJS 15017, 1963
Track 10 from Duke Ellington and John Coltrane, Impulse! LP A-30, 1963
Track 11 recorded 1963, released on A Morning in Paris, Enja CD, 1996
Track 12 recorded 1963, released on Jazz Violin Sessions, Atlantic LP, 1977
Track 13 from This One’s for Blanton, Pablo LP 2310 721, 1975
Track 14 from Black, Brown and Beige, Columbia LP CS 8015, 1958
Track 15 recorded 1946, included on CD on Centennial Edition: The Complete RCA Victor Recordings 1927-1973, RCA Victor CD 090266338627, 2000

Written by Joe Marchese

January 24, 2013 at 09:56

2 Responses

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  1. Get “Jazz Party”, it’s a fun masterpiece. One of my alltime jazz favorites.

    mark schlesinger

    January 24, 2013 at 16:15

  2. You cannot knock Duke, and everything here is excellent. But I do criticize the “Duets Marketing” concept. It bothers me when the legends of music history have been reduced to a marketing ploy. At least these are legitimate recordings from Duke’s discography, and were not created to be part of a gimmick. But this is a gimmick.

    In the end, though, maybe it will introduce some people to Ellington,and make them look for more. I would rather achieve this with his finer recordings that are more representative of his work. Most of these were from oddities in his discography, some would say “one-offs”


    January 25, 2013 at 09:05

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