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Archive for the ‘Duke Ellington’ Category

It’s Got That Swing: Ellington’s “After Midnight” Recordings Collected By Legacy [UPDATED 6/19]

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After MidnightWhen this year’s Tony Award nominations were announced on April 29, After Midnight was among the most-recognized productions of the season with seven nominations including Best Musical. The critically-acclaimed show, which has been running at Broadway’s Brooks Atkinson Theatre since October of last year, picked up one Tony for Warren Carlyle’s vivid choreography.  But After Midnight has recently announced a closing date of June 29.  With its departure from the Great White Way, prospects for an original cast album seem even dimmer than before.  Happily, Legacy Recordings has come along to partially fill in the gap with a collection of the vintage big band recordings that inspired the musical. On June 17, the label will release The Original Recordings That Inspired The Broadway Hit After Midnight from legendary composer-bandleader Duke Ellington (1899-1974), whose music is played eight times a week onstage by the Lincoln Center Jazz All-Stars.

The revue celebrating Ellington’s music and the rich legacy of Harlem’s Cotton Club was conceived by Jack Viertel in cooperation with Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center, and directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle.  With evocative snippets of text by Langston Hughes as connective tissue, the musical features the 17-piece All-Stars and a cast of 25 multi-talented performers (including a rotating guest slot that has so far included Fantasia, Vanessa Williams, k.d. lang, Toni Braxton, and currently, Patti LaBelle) to bring the Jazz Age to life via a variety of vocal songs, instrumentals, dance specialties, comedy and more.  Under Marsalis’ guidance, the band plays the classic period arrangements – as heard on Legacy’s new compilation disc in recordings made between 1927 and 1940.

Though born in the final year of the 19th century, few figures in 20th century music were as influential as the composer, arranger, pianist and bandleader. After Midnight features songs from one of the most creatively fertile periods of Ellington’s long and distinguished career. On December 4, 1927, he began his engagement at New York City’s Cotton Club, and he led the house band there until June 30, 1931. Ellington recorded over 100 songs during this period, gaining national exposure via both radio and recordings even as word traveled of his band’s incendiary live performances. By the time of his first ever long-playing album, 1951’s Masterpieces by Ellington, he was true American cultural royalty, well-established via films, Broadway musicals and the enduring now-standard compositions he gifted to the Great American Songbook.

In addition to composing his own music at the Cotton Club, Ellington arranged music by other great songwriters including Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler, and Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields. Songs from these talents represented in both the musical and on the companion disc include “It Don’t Mean a Thing”, “Stormy Weather,” “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Cotton Club Stomp”. The recordings here were made between 1927 and 1940; as Ellington recorded many of these tunes numerous times for various labels, Legacy has a vast archive of performances to draw upon.  The Original Recordings includes vocals by African-American trailblazers Ethel Waters, The Mills Brothers and Ivie Anderson; their spirits are all affectionately channeled onstage in the production.

After the jump, we have more including the complete track listing with verified discography, and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

June 19, 2014 at 09:52

Release Round-Up: Week of June 17

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Dave Matthews Band - Remember Two ThingsDave Matthews Band, Remember Two Things: Expanded Edition (Bama Rags/RCA/Legacy)

The DMB’s 1993 mostly-live, self-released debut netted them enough exposure for a major-label deal some 20 years, six consecutive No. 1 studio albums and countless tours ago. Now, it’s back on CD with unreleased photos and two unheard studio bonus tracks; plus, for the first time, it’s being released on vinyl (with the bonus tracks available as a download).

CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Hendrix Blue Wild Angel BDJimi Hendrix, Blue Wild Angel: Jimi Hendrix Live At The Isle of Wight (Blu-ray Disc) (Experience Hendrix/Legacy)

Recorded in 1970 and released on DVD in 2002, Hendrix’s set at the acclaimed festival gets upgraded for the HD set. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Willie It Will Come To PassWillie Nelson, It Will Come to Pass: The Metaphysical Worlds and Poetic Introspections of Willie Nelson (Omni)

On the same date that Legacy Recordings issues Willie Nelson’s newest studio album Band of Brothers, U.K. label Omni delves into his RCA Victor catalogue for a 28-track collection of “some of the most philosophical and lysergic sounds ever captured in a Nashville studio.” Omni promises that this deluxe release is remastered from the original tapes, and includes new liner notes, rare photos and previously unreleased tracks. (Amazon U.K. / Amazon U.S.)

Duke After MidnightDuke Ellington, The Original Recordings That Inspired the Broadway Hit “After Midnight” (Legacy)

Broadway’s Cotton Club revue After Midnight recently posted its closing notice, but you can take home its music on this disc of the original recordings by Duke Ellington that inspired the musical! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Written by Mike Duquette

June 17, 2014 at 08:19

In A Sentimental Mood: Pablo Expands Sarah Vaughan’s “Ellington Songbooks”

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Sarah Vaughan - Sophisticated LadyOver a long recording career encompassing roughly ten labels and 45 years, “Divine One” Sarah Vaughan (1924-1990) followed her muse wherever it led.  That meant she might record an album of poetry by Pope John Paul II one day (1984’s The Planet is Alive…Let It Live!) and bossa nova with Sergio Mendes the nest day (1987’s Brazilian Romance, recently reissued as part of Legacy’s Complete Columbia Albums Collection, or a Beatles anthology (1977’s Songs of the Beatles, belatedly released in 1981) followed by a couple of volumes of The Duke Ellington Song Book (1979 and 1980).  Whether jazz, blues, soul, or pop, however, Vaughan created music that was distinctly “Sassy.”  Those tributes to Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974), originally released on Norman Granz’s Pablo label, were in the tradition of past salutes to George and Ira Gershwin (1957), Irving Berlin (1957), Henry Mancini (1965) and Michel Legrand (1972).  Granz surrounded Vaughan with the jazz elite plucked from Pablo’s roster and elsewhere, including Joe Pass, Zoot Sims, Bucky Pizzarelli, Jimmy Rowles, Grady Tate, Frank Wess, Frank Foster, and Andy Simpkins.  The Duke Ellington Song Books One and Two have been brought together for Pablo’s 40th anniversary series as Sophisticated Lady: The Duke Ellington Songbook Collection, and as a bonus, the new 2-CD set includes six tracks from a previously unreleased session arranged by the great composer and multi-instrumentalist Benny Carter.

In the exemplary and comprehensive new liner notes by Tad Hershorn, Gary Giddins’ 1978 review of Vaughan’s Pablo release How Long Has This Been Going On?  is quoted: “It will be interesting to see if she continues to work with producer Norman Granz, because if he parades the entire Pablo stock company through her sessions (including one hopes, a set of Benny Carter arrangements), he will be mining the most valuable lode since Ella Fitzgerald discovered songbooks.”  That set of Carter arrangements is finally here, premiering for the first time on Sophisticated Lady.  It seems that Vaughan began work on the project with Carter but refused their release allegedly because Granz hadn’t included space for her then-husband, trumpeter Waymon Reed, to solo.  During the same August 15, 1979 Hollywood session during which she recorded the Carter charts, Vaughan recorded three of the same songs (“Solitude,” “Day Dream” and “Sophisticated Lady”) in arrangements by trombonist Billy Byers, also a Broadway orchestrator of some note (City of Angels, A Chorus Line).  Recording continued in August and September 1979 in Hollywood and New York, with Vaughan alternating between Byers’ orchestra and a small group, concluding in January 1980 with two small group dates.  Vaughan tackled many of the most famous songs in the Ellington canon during these sessions – among them “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good),” “In a Sentimental Mood,” “I Didn’t Know About You” and “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart.”

Hit the jump for more details, including the full track listing and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 14, 2013 at 10:30

Review: Pablo 40th Anniversary Series with Gillespie, Ellington, Tatum, Peterson, Grappelli and Sims

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Pablo Reissues

When impresario Norman Granz founded the Pablo label in 1973, fusion, funk and Latin sounds were at the forefront of jazz.  Granz, founder of the Verve, Norgran and Clef labels, initially launched Pablo as a platform for his management clients Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass, but soon its roster was filled out with the equally starry likes of Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Sarah Vaughan.  Granz’ new label was an instant success and a safe haven for traditional jazz in this period of rapid musical change.  Pablo’s very first LP – Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass and NielsHenning Ørsted Pedersen’s The Trio – even netted a Grammy Award.  To celebrate Pablo’s fortieth anniversary, Concord Music Group has reissued five classic titles from its catalogue.  Three albums feature guitarist Pass, two in collaboration with pianist Peterson and one with bassist Pedersen.  The fourth and fifth – archival showcases for the legendary Art Tatum and Duke Ellington – were recorded in the 1950s but released on Pablo in the 1970s.  Best of all, all titles have been remastered, and all save the Tatum premiere previously unreleased bonus material.

Before Dave Brubeck, before Bill Evans, before Bud Powell, there was Art Tatum.  Though inspired by the stride piano style (in which, generally speaking, the left hand plays a four-beat pulse with a single bass note, octave, seventh or tenth interval on the first and third beats, and a chord on the second and fourth beats) of Fats Waller as well as by Earl “Fatha” Hines, Tatum made the instrument his own, and is frequently recognized today as the greatest jazz pianist of all time.  There’s ample evidence why on the first volume of Pablo’s Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces (OJC-CD-34620-02).

Almost every one of the sixteen songs on this introductory volume – recorded in 1953 and 1955 – is a standard, but Tatum’s boundless imagination for improvisation renders nothing at all “standard” about them.  69 Solo Masterpieces performances were recorded over two days in 1953; more sessions commenced in April 1954 and concluded in January 1955, yielding a total of 125 masters.  On November 5, 1956, Tatum was gone, a victim of kidney failure.  The tracks were originally issued on Granz’s Clef label as boxed sets and 13 individual albums.  When Pablo was founded in 1973, one order of business was to reissue these seminal recordings.  The newly-remastered Volume One combines the first and ninth original Pablo LPs onto one disc.

Tad Hershorn’s new liner notes explore the theory that Tatum may have made it all look too easy, which might explain why he never achieved international stardom during his all-too-short lifetime.  Indeed, the notes recount producer Granz bringing Pabst Blue Ribbon and a portable radio tuned to the UCLA basketball game to get Tatum in the mood for the sessions.  Though the results sound far from tossed-off, the fact of the matter seems to be that the inventive improvisations heard here did come naturally to Tatum.  There’s a bounce and a carefree verve to these tracks – even unlikely ones such as Cole Porter’s 1930 “Love for Sale,” originally a streetwalker’s lament.  Tatum puts the soul into “Body and Soul,” lightly swings “My Love Affair,” and embellishes “There’s Only a Paper Moon” with a barrage of zesty notes that enliven Harold Arlen’s sweet melody.  Though he transformed the style with elegance, muscularity and musical wit, the stride technique admired by Tatum is still very much present throughout.  Tatum even takes on two compositions by another renowned pianist, Duke Ellington (“Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’” and “Sophisticated Lady”) with aplomb.

Though this is very much an exuberant set, Tatum also has a way with a ballad.  As he dissects the melody of Rodgers and Hart’s “Have You Met Miss Jones,” interpreting it in various styles, it’s impossible to say what Rodgers would have thought.  Though the famed composer was a notorious stickler for playing the notes as written, Tatum’s virtuosity is undeniable.  “Stay as Sweet as You Are” has a romantic feel, while Tatum is surprisingly dark on “Willow Weep for Me.”  The title of one of these Solo Masterpieces, “Too Marvelous for Words,” could certainly describe Tatum’s animated instrumental performances!

After the jump, we’ll explore titles from Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Stephane Grappelli, Zoot Sims and others! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

October 7, 2013 at 10:21

Release Round-Up: Week of September 17

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The Band - Academy of MusicThe Band, LIve at the Academy of Music: The Rock of Ages Concerts (Capitol/UMe)

This five-disc box set (four CDs and a DVD) features selections from The Band’s famed four-night run in New York in 1971. Though these shows would create the live Rock of Ages album, this box instead features highlights from the shows on two discs (including guest appearances by Bob Dylan), another two discs of the complete soundboard mix of the final concert on New Year’s Eve 1971, and a DVD with 5.1 surround mixes and newly-discovered film of two of those performances.

4CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2CD highlights: Amazon U.S.

Sunshine Daydream packshotGrateful Dead, Sunshine Daydream (Rhino)

One of the most sought-after Dead shows, from the summer of 1972, is released in full on CD and in 5.1 surround sound.

3CD/1DVD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. deluxe version with 40-page booklet and Grateful Days documentary: DVD / BD
4LP: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Alternate MonroMatt MonroAlternate Monro (Parlophone U.K.)

Twenty-seven alternate takes of classic songs from the underrated British crooner. (Amazon U.S.Amazon U.K.)

I Robot Legacy EditionThe Alan Parsons Project, I Robot: Legacy Edition (Arista/Legacy)

The Alan Parsons Project’s sophomore album (and first for Arista) featured the band’s second Top 40 hit, “I Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You,” amid a narrative structure on artificial intelligence. This Legacy Edition features a bonus disc with all the tracks from the 2007 reissue plus even more bonus material.

2CD: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
2LP: Amazon U.K.

Roy Orbison In DreamsRoy Orbison, In Dreams: Greatest Hits (Legacy)

A rare example of acclaimed re-recorded versions of an artist’s earlier hits! In Dreams, first released in 1987 after Orbison’s unexpected popularity boost by way of Blue Velvet, was the catalyst to a remarkable comeback for the Big O – one that lasted well beyond his sudden passing in 1988. (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pablo ReissuesDizzy Gillespie, Dizzy Gillespie’s Big 4 / Zoot Sims, Zoot Sims and The Gershwin Brothers / Art Tatum, The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces Volume 1 / Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Ellington Suites / Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Skol (Original Jazz Classics)

Five titles originally released on the Pablo Records label and featuring some of the century’s biggest names in jazz are reissued on CD; all but the Tatum title have been expanded with unreleased material!

Dizzy: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Zoot: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Tatum: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Duke: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.
Oscar: Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.

Glen Campbell ICON ChristmasGlen Campbell, ICON Christmas (Capitol/UMe)

Typically, news of an ICON title gets flung into the sun; however, this disc features, for the first time on CD, Campbell’s 1968 album That Christmas Feeling. The product line comes through! (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K.)

Pablo Records’ 40th Celebrated with Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Dizzy Gillespie, More

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Pablo Reissues

Concord Music Group’s Original Jazz Classics line recently celebrated the 60th anniversary of Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer’s famed Riverside Records label with five reissues from Bill Evans, Chet Baker, Wes Montgomery, Thelonious Monk and Gerry Mulligan, and Cannonball Adderley and Milt Jackson.  (Expect a full review of all five titles soon!)  On September 17, the OJC series will turn its attention to the 40th anniversary of jazz impresario Norman Granz’s Pablo Records with the reissue of five classic albums from Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Zoot Sims and Art Tatum:

  • Dizzy Gillespie, Joe Pass, Ray Brown and Mickey Roker, Dizzy’s Big 4 (1974)
  • Zoot Sims, Zoot Sims and the Gershwin Brothers (1975)
  • Art Tatum, The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces, Volume 1 (1975)
  • Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, The Ellington Suites (1976)
  • Oscar Peterson and Stephane Grappelli, Skol (1979)

Granz founded Pablo roughly one decade after having sold his Clef, Norgran and Verve labels to the MGM dream factory.  The producer, manager and entrepreneur initially made Pablo a home to artists he also managed like Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Pass and Oscar Peterson, later adding many other familiar names to his roster.  In fewer than fifteen years, Pablo released over 350 albums, but in 1987, Granz sold the label to Fantasy Records, today a part of the Concord Music Group.  Each of the upcoming titles save Art Tatum’s Solo Masterpieces, Volume 1 has been expanded with previously unreleased material.

After the jump: more details and pre-order links for all five titles! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

August 5, 2013 at 14:28

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 24, 2013 at 09:56

Three From FiveFour: Jazz Label Offers Gil Evans on Hendrix, Plus Don Ellis and Duke Ellington

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Ellington Jazz PartyCherry Red’s recently-reactivated FiveFour label’s latest trawl into the Sony jazz archives has delivered another three rare titles to CD.  All have been available in the format before, though one is particularly difficult to find, and all three should have great appeal.

The oldest selection of the trio hails from 1959.  Duke Ellington’s Jazz Party welcomed Dizzy Gillespie as well as Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Jones and Ellington’s longtime sax man, Jimmy Hodges.  Ellington and his frequent collaborator and co-writer Billy Strayhorn brought new tunes to the party, including the four-part, punningly-titled “Toot Suite” featuring Britt Woodman (trombone) on Part One, Jimmy Hamilton (saxophone) and Shorty Baker (trumpet) on Part Two, Russell Procope (saxophone) and Quentin Jackson (trombone) on Part Three, and Paul Gonsalves (saxophone) on Part Four.  The already-legendary Gillespie got his chance to show off his horn on Strayhorn’s “U.M.M.G.” (for Upper Manhattan Medical Group), while pianist Jones and former Count Basie Band vocalist Rushing join the Duke for Ellington’s “Hello, Little Girl.”  Two tracks not on the original 1959 Columbia LP, “Fillie Trillie” and the ubiquitous “Satin Doll,” have been included in the album sequence here.  Jazz Party makes a fine addendum to Ellington’s recently-released Complete Columbia Albums Collection 1951-1958 on the Legacy label, as it was released the following year after that set’s final album, Cosmic Scene.

After the jump: Al Kooper meets Don Ellis, and Gil Evans pays homage to Jimi Hendrix!  Plus: full track listings and order links! Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

January 3, 2013 at 08:44

The Year in Reissues: The 2012 Gold Bonus Disc Awards

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Gold CDWow!  Was it just over a year ago when a rather dubious report began circulating (that, shockingly, was picked up by many otherwise-reputable publications) that proclaimed the death of the CD was secretly scheduled by the major labels for 2012?  Well, 2012 has come and (almost) gone, and it might have been the most super-sized year in recent memory for reissues, deluxe and otherwise, from labels new and old.  Here at the Second Disc, we consider our annual Gold Bonus Disc Awards a companion piece to Mike’s own round-up over at Popdose, and we endeavor to recognize as many of the year’s most amazing reissues as possible – over 80 worthy, unique titles.  We also hope to celebrate those labels, producers and artists who have raised the bar for great music throughout 2012. As we’re literally deluged with news around these parts, these ladies and gentlemen prove, week after week, the strength and health of the catalogue corner of the music world.  We dedicate The Gold Bonus Disc Awards to them, and to you, the readers.  After all, your interest is ultimately what keeps great music of the past alive and well.

With that in mind, don’t forget to share your own thoughts and comments below. What made your must-have list in 2012? Without further ado, let’s celebrate 2012′s best of the best. Welcome to the Gold Bonus Disc Awards!

Which releases take home the gold this year? Hit the jump below to find out! Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Gift Guide Review: Duke Ellington, “The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1951-1958”

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What made Ellington a Duke? Though born in the final year of the 19th century, few figures in 20th century music were as influential as composer, pianist and bandleader Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. By the time of his first ever long-playing album, 1951’s Masterpieces by Ellington, he was already American royalty, well-established via films, Broadway musicals and the enduring compositions he gifted to the Great American Songbook. Masterpieces also kicks off the nine-disc journey through Legacy Recordings’ The Complete Columbia Studio Albums Collection 1951-1958 (88697 93888 2). As the title indicates, this box set only covers a part of Ellington’s Columbia career, excluding live discs and his work into the 1960s. But it makes available in one fell swoop some of the most important music of Ellington’s long career, and restores to the catalogue two albums previously unavailable on CD in the U.S.: 1956’s A Drum is a Woman and 1958’s At the Bal Masque.

The nine albums in the box are representative of Ellington’s work during this fertile period. These nine albums serve as bookends to Ellington’s renowned 1956 Newport Jazz Festival appearance which reaffirmed his place in the pantheon and landed him on the cover of Time. The big band era in which he once flourished might have passed, but the time for Duke Ellington’s orchestra certainly did not. He took advantage of the long-playing LP format to revisit past classics in epic style on albums such as Masterpieces and 1952’s Ellington Uptown, teamed with vocalists Rosemary Clooney and Mahalia Jackson for two incredibly different sets, and crafted ambitious suites with A Drum is a Woman and Such Sweet Thunder. He even intermingled his own well-known compositions with those of his others on Ellington Indigos, At the Bal Masque and The Cosmic Scene, which despite its space age title, incorporated already-vintage songs by Al Jolson, W.C. Handy, and Johnnys Burke and Mercer. All of the albums in the new box set are essential listening for fans of big band, “pure” jazz and popular vocals, too. Each LP, too, has bonus tracks carried over from previous Legacy reissues, excepting the new-to-U.S. CD Bal Masque and Drum.

We explore the contents of the box set further after the jump! You know what to do…

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Joe Marchese

December 7, 2012 at 11:54