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Jazz - Released January 1, 1959 | Verve Reissues

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
These distinctive small-group sessions, featuring Duke Ellington as pianist in a blues context, are part of a group of recordings issued under the confusing titles Back to Back and Side by Side, and further reissued under the not particularly distinctive name of Blues Summit. But there should be no confusion about the high quality of music that came out of these sessions -- it is all "cooking with gas" as the expression goes. From the jazz world, it would be difficult to find more profound soloists on traditional blues numbers than the Duke or his longtime collaborator Johnny Hodges, who does some of the most soulful playing of his career here. Also hitting a very high standard for himself is trumpeter Harry Edison and, while musicians are being patted on the back, the Jones boys in the rhythm section should be given a hand. That's Jo Jones (drums) and Sam Jones (bass), so as not to create additional confusion in the Jones-heavy jazz world. The songs all have titles that end in "Blues," with the oddball having "Love" in the title not once but twice. (It's "Loveless Love," what else?) But these songs are just vehicles for playing the blues, a formula that has produced great music many times, and certainly did every time this particular pianist was leading the group. © Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo
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CDkr182.99

Pop - Released November 17, 1982 | Rhino Atlantic

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Jazz - Released January 1, 1987 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
"In the Uncommon Market," of course, refers to Europe, where Norman Granz caught the Ellington band numerous times with his tape machines in the 1960s. But it could also refer to the unusual repertoire featured on this collection, with only one standard, "In a Sentimental Mood," in a shelfful of out of the way Ellingtonia. These tracks, of indeterminate date, come from Ellington band concerts in Stockholm, Sweden, and Pastacitta, Italy, supplemented by some rare trio selections recorded in a museum in St. Paul-de-Vence, France, for a short film on Duke and the painter Joan Miró. The famous reed players are out in full cry; clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton thrives over the cool vamp of "Silk Lace," Johnny Hodges croons and sighs as only Johnny Hodges could in the lovely Shakespearian ballad "Star-Crossed Lovers," and Paul Gonsalves applies his oddly, singularly diffident tone to "E.S.P." A fascinating Afro-Cuban tango (to coin a hybrid), "Guitar Amour," puts a cap on the band portion of the disc, with Ray Nance playing the violin solos. Then the Ellington trio steps in with two takes of "The Shepherd," where the Duke's vocal obbligato can be overheard and the performances are so slyly swinging that you don't mind hearing it twice. And as Ellington unwinds and relaxes on the third and last trio swinger, "Kinda Dukish," you kinda wish that Granz had recorded an entire album of them. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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CDkr248.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Duke's 1947 Carnegie Hall concert almost didn't come off -- as the date fell, New York City was up to its waist in snow. But Duke and his men pressed on valiantly, and here, with some judicious editing, is the second night of a two-night stand at the hall. Featuring a version of the Ellington band that didn't do a lot of recording during this period due to the AFM's recording ban, this documentation captures a band in transition, with old guard players like Hodges, Lawrence Brown, Harry Carney and others working in tandem with newcomers to the fold like Ray Nance, "Scad" Hemphill, and high-note master Al Killian. The judicious editing out of certain material provides a fresh set list, with little duplication from other live recordings and no overworked hits, making this a wonderful addition to anyone's Ellington collection. © Cub Koda /TiVo
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CDkr248.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
The Ellington orchestra was undergoing some personnel (and personality) changes during this era, none of it unexciting. This Carnegie Hall concert (available on two CDs) introduced Ellington's "Perfume Suite," and includes a half-hour series of selections from "Black, Brown and Beige," but also in the shorter pieces shows the impact of tenorman Al Sears and high-note wizard Cat Anderson on the band's sound, making it a more potentially boisterous and extroverted ensemble. Lots of great moments from this brilliant orchestra occured during this concert. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr151.99

Jazz - Released May 9, 1966 | RCA Victor

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
Though Duke Ellington called his first concert of sacred music "the most important thing I've ever done," it might have been more accurately called the most controversial thing he had ever done -- even more so than the so-called "Controversial Suite." The year was 1965; institutions of all kinds, including organized religion, were under fire; even Time magazine dared to run a cover with the legend "Is God Dead?" In response to progressive members of the clergy, jazz musicians like Ellington, Lalo Schifrin, Vince Guaraldi, and a bit later, Dave Brubeck took up the challenge of fusing Christian texts with jazz -- and no project had a higher profile, nor drew more fire, than Ellington's. Conservatives called it a blasphemous attempt to sully religion with jazz; radicals thought it was a sellout on bended knee to organized religion. Yet this first concert, the best of the three that Ellington was to organize in the last nine years of his life, holds up stunningly well today. It's actually a patchwork of this and that from several stages of Ellington's career, going all the way back to "Come Sunday" from "Black, Brown and Beige" (which is heard twice in vocal and instrumental versions) and including material from the 1963 show My People. More than that, the concert taps into Ellington's roots in showbiz and African-American culture as well as his evidently deep religious faith, throwing it all together in the spirit of universality and sealing everything with the stamps of his musical signatures. Ellington's attempt to grab his audience directly by the scruffs of their necks is apparent immediately in "In the Beginning God," where the commanding bass-baritone of Brock Peters describes a primordial universe without modern trappings: "No poverty, no Cadillacs, no sandtraps, no mudpacks...no bottom, no topless...no birds, no bees, no Beatles...." There's even a snazzy number for jazz band, chorus, and tap dancer (Bunny Briggs), "David Danced Before the Lord With All His Might," where "Come Sunday"'s tune appears for the third time. Gospel singer Esther Marrow swings as hard as the band on "Tell Me It's the Truth" and a setting of "The Lord's Prayer" -- and gives "Come Sunday" one of its most soulful treatments on record. The Ellington band still had many of its legendary soloists on hand to testify, including Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Cootie Williams, and returning from the '50s band, Louie Bellson driving hard on the drums. But none of the ingredients would matter in the end if the material wasn't as strong as it is, recorded live in New York's Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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CDkr248.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1977 | Fantasy Records

Distinctions The Qobuz Standard
This two-CD set contains another of Duke Ellington's exciting Carnegie Hall Concerts of the '40s; all are recommended. The 1946 concert is not as memorable as the others (the only work premiered was the three-part "Tonal Group" and "Black, Brown and Beige" was now down to 19 minutes) but the many major soloists (including alto-great Johnny Hodges and the robust tenor of Al Sears) still make this lesser item an enjoyable listening experience. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr124.29

Jazz - Released February 1, 1963 | Impulse!

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The classic 1962 album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane showcased the rising jazz saxophone innovator performing alongside the long-established piano institution. While the pairing might have portended a dynamic clash of the musical generations, instead we got a casual, respectful, and musically generous meeting of like-minded souls. Similarly, while one might have assumed that Ellington would use his sidemen, instead producer Bob Thiele (who also produced similar albums for Ellington including pairings with Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins) chose to bring in Coltrane's own outfit for the proceedings. Consequently, the duo is backed here at various times by bassist Jimmy Garrison and drummer Elvin Jones, as well as alternates bassist Aaron Bell and drummer Sam Woodyard. The most surprising aspect of the Ellington/Coltrane date is how well suited Coltrane and his group are at playing what largely ends up being Ellington's own material. While he was certainly in the nascency of his more avant-garde period in 1962, Coltrane had a deep understanding of traditional jazz vocabulary, having played in a swing band in the Navy in the 1940s and studied the style of artists like Hawkins and Ben Webster while coming up in Philadelphia. Similarly, though an icon of the big-band era by the 1960s, Ellington had been on the upswing of a career resurgence ever since his dynamic performance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, later released as Ellington at Newport. His meeting with Coltrane was emblematic of his renewed creativity and was one of several albums he recorded in his latter life with theretofore unexpected artists, not the least of which his other 1962 date, Money Jungle with bassist Charles Mingus and drummer Max Roach. Here, Ellington and Coltrane play a handful of well-known Ellington book numbers, including a supremely lyrical "In a Sentimental Mood" and a soulful, half-lidded version of Billy Strayhorn's "My Little Brown Book." Ellington even supplied the brisk original "Take the Coltrane," allowing plenty of room for Coltrane to let loose with knotty, angular lines. © Matt Collar /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1995 | Impulse!

This set documents a historic occasion. Although Coleman Hawkins had been an admirer of Duke Ellington's music for at least 35 years at this point and Ellington had suggested they record together at least 20 years prior to their actual meeting in 1962, this was their first (and only) meeting on record. Although it would have been preferable to hear the great tenor performing with the full orchestra, his meeting with Ellington and an all-star group taken out of the big band does feature such greats as Ray Nance on cornet and violin, trombonist Lawrence Brown, altoist Johnny Hodges, and baritonist Harry Carney. High points include an exuberant "The Jeep Is Jumpin'," an interesting remake of "Mood Indigo," and a few new Ellington pieces. This delightful music is recommended in one form or another. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr137.79

Jazz - Released February 13, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

Amazingly, it took Columbia Records until the very end of 1950, two years into the LP era and the transition from disc to magnetic tape recording, to get Duke Ellington and His Orchestra into the studio to cut a long-playing record. For the first time in his recording career, Ellington was able to forego the three-minutes-and-change restrictions in running time of the 78 rpm disc -- he and the band rose to the occasion with extended (11-minute-plus) "uncut concert arrangements" of "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," and "Solitude," augmented with one splendid newer work, "The Tattooed Bride." And it's taken 15 years into the CD boom before Masterpieces By Ellington has been given the treatment that it deserves. Sony Music of Japan reissued this classic recording in 1998, remastered using the company's 20-bit-based Super Bit Mapping digital system, and results are astonishing -- the band sounds like it's in the same room with the listener, and that goes double for the piano and the soloists (including singer Yvonne Lanauze) on "Mood Indigo." Even in this august company, "The Tattooed Bride" is a swinging virtuoso piece that, as everyone present must have known, couldn't possibly have been captured in this manner in any era before this session -- this was also one of the last sessions to feature the classic Ellington lineup with Johnny Hodges, Lawrence Brown, and Sonny Greer, before their exodus altered the band's sound, and so it's a doubly precious piece (as is the whole album), among the last written specifically for this lineup. And it now all sounds at least ten years newer than its actual date of recording, packaged in a CD-size recreation of the original '50s jacket design. A U.S. release hasn't been announced, but it's worth the $20 list as an import. (Japanese import) © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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CDkr125.39

Bebop - Released August 7, 2015 | BDMUSIC

Duke Ellington's work is a decades-spanning cornucopia. This twentieth century genius's modernity erupts from each of the 43 tracks in this anthology, which brings together recordings made between 1938 and 1957. From simple themes to ambitious sequels: the Duke could do it all! And with a fine musical ear, he was able to track down the best musicians to accompany him. Over the years, his career has served as an incubator and a revelation for large numbers of soloists. The bandleader became so fond of some of his protégés that he concocted mini-concertos to highlight their talents. This double compilation is an anthology of these little-known minor masterpieces, which were mostly not recorded in his official studios. These pieces offer a timeless setting for famous or forgotten virtuosos including Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Hamilton, Cootie Williams, Jimmie Blanton, Britt Woodman, Willie Cook, Quentin Jackson, Al Sears, Cat Anderson, Harry Carney, Rex Stewart, Tyree Glenn, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry or Oscar Pettiford. © Max Dembo/Qobuz
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Jazz - Released July 1, 1959 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released July 27, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

One of Ellington's rarer studio sessions and last out on this French CD, the main plot behind this runthrough of his standards is that the leader's piano is featured at some point in every song. His sidemen are also heard from and everyone is in fine form. Ellington's solo abilities were always a bit underrated due to his brilliance in other areas, but this set shows just how modern he remained through the years as a player. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr177.59

Jazz - Released January 1, 1975 | Fantasy Records

For this set of duets, pianist Duke Ellington is teamed up with bassist Ray Brown in performances a bit reminiscent of Duke's work with Jimmy Blanton three decades before. In addition to the four-part "Fragmented Suite for Piano and Bass," the duo plays five standards (including "Pitter Panther Patter" from the Blanton days and three other Ellington-associated tunes). Delightful and often-playful music. © Scott Yanow /TiVo
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CDkr114.79

Jazz - Released August 6, 2021 | Storyville Records

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Jazz - Released April 8, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Records

Not much has been said about Duke Ellington's Reprise Records period, and even less that's enthusiastic, mostly owing to the fact that his output there ran between two extremes: dazzlingly inventive conceptual pieces juxtaposed with re-recordings of classic big-band material, and pop-jazz efforts built around covers of current popular songs. Amid that wildly divergent body of work, it's no surprise that the live material from The Great Paris Concert and Ellington's Greatest Hits eclipsed much of his Reprise studio work. Thus, this five-CD box is the first opportunity that most listeners will have had to assess the music properly. As with all Mosaic issues, it's in recording session order, and Disc One opens with Ellington's 1962 covers of classic big-band material. Disc Two is where things not only get interesting but downright spellbinding, containing the entirety of the Afro-Bossa Album -- this is some of the most beautiful, engaging, and forward-looking music of Ellington's 1960s output, and the varied rhythms and textures are coupled with some truly luscious playing. Disc Three is largely given over to the material off of Symphonic Ellington, mixed band and orchestra pieces dating from the period in which Ellington began writing concert music for orchestra. Disc Four is devoted to the Ellington '65 and Ellington '66 albums, renditions of current pop and rock & roll hits. Few of Ellington's serious fans have ever professed much love for his Mary Poppins album, the contents of which open Disc Five, but the material holds up quite well, mostly because the soloists are enjoying themselves. As usual with Mosaic, the annotation and sessionography material are thoroughly detailed. © Bruce Eder /TiVo
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CDkr151.99

Jazz - Released February 17, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

Even back in the early '50s, Columbia Records took Duke Ellington seriously enough to place this album on its prestigious Masterworks label, heretofore reserved mostly for highbrow classical music and Broadway shows (later in the decade, though, it was retitled Hi-Fi Ellington Uptown and reissued on the pop series with an additional piece, "The Controversial Suite"). Also, this LP explodes the critical line that the early '50s was a relatively fallow period for the Duke; any of these smoking, concert-length tracks will torpedo that notion. The young Louie Bellson was powering the Ellington band at that time, and his revolutionary double-bass drum technique and rare ability to build coherent drum solos are put to astounding use on his self-penned leadoff track, "Skin Deep," which was quite a demonstration piece for audiophiles at the time. Old favorites from the Ellington hit parade are given extended treatments, with singer Betty Roche taking the A-train for a bebop-flavored ride, "The Mooche" spotlighting clarinetists Jimmy Hamilton and Russell Procope, and Ellington's boogie-woogie piano kicking off a super-charged "Perdido" for trumpeter Clark Terry. The centerpiece of the disc is a sharply drawn, idiomatically swinging, probably unbeatable performance of "A Tone Parallel to Harlem" that lays waste to any of the "symphonic" versions that turn up frequently at pop concerts. Another feature of this record is the great sound quality, a benefit of being entrusted to Columbia's best engineers. © Richard S. Ginell /TiVo
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Jazz - Released April 27, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

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Jazz - Released April 27, 1999 | Columbia - Legacy

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Bebop - Released April 16, 2021 | MusicMasters