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Reviewers: Don Mather, Dick Stafford, Marc Bridle, John Eyles, Ian Lace, Colin Clarke

The Great Duke Ellington Vocalists

The Duke Ellington Orchestra + various vocalists ( as listed after each selection )
Recorded 1927 - 1946
BLUEBIRD 09026 63863-2

Crotchet midprice 

1. It Don't Mean A Thing ( If It Ain't Got That Swing ) - Kay Davis, Joya Sherrill, Marie Ellington
2. Jump For Joy - Herb Jeffries
3. I'm Beginning To See The Light - Joya Sherrill
4.Bli-Blip - Ray Nance
5. I;m Just A Lucky So-And-So - Al Hibbler
6. Troubled Waters - Ivie Anderson
7. Three Little Words - The Rhythm Boys featuring Bing Crosby
8. I Ain't Got Nothin' But The Blues - Al Hibbler, Kay Davis
9. ( Otto Make That ) Riff Staccato - Ray Nance
10. Ebony Rhapsody - Ivie Anderson
11. Me And You - Ivie Anderson
12. You, You Darlin' - Herb Jeffries
13. There Shall Be No Night - Herb Jeffries
14. Just Squeeze Me ( But Don't Tease Me ) - Ray Nance
15. Hot Feet - Cootie Williams
16. Five O'clock Whistle - Ivie Anderson
17. I Got It Bad ( And That Ain't Good ) - Ivie Anderson
18. Flamingo - Herb Jeffries
19. Pretty Woman - Al Hibbler
20. Creole Love Call - Adelaide Hall

Duke Ellington was often criticised for his choice of vocalists. This fact is amplified in the liner notes to this CD. It is probably true that some of the later singers he employed justified this criticism, however, on this compilation ( culled from the superb "Centennial Edition ) it could truly be claimed that this represents best of the Ellington vocalists. To my mind , the only great omission is Betty Roche and she obviously did not record for RCA.

Apart from the guest appearances of The Rhythm Boys, featuring Bing Crosby, and Adelaide Hall the other artists on this disc were all regular members of the Ellington organisation for various periods of time. Ivie Anderson, who was the longest serving singer with the band, clocking up some eleven years, can be heard on five of these selections. Her delivery was deceptively simple and she was possessed of a tonal quality equal to the great instrumental soloists around her. It would be difficult to find anyone with clearer diction in any field of music. " I Got It Bad " with a translucent saxophone solo from Johnny Hodges must rank pretty close to the top amongst ballad performances.

Ray Nance was known in the band as " Floorshow ." Not only did he play trumpet and violin to a very high standard but he also tap-danced and was most adept at novelty vocals such as " Riff Staccato " and " Bli-Blip " which are on this issue.

The blind singer Al Hibbler, who only recently passed away, was another who had quite a long tenure with the band ( 1943 - 1951 ). He was a most versatile musician ( he later recorded with such different artists as Roland Kirk ) and was equally at ease on standard tunes such as " I'm Just A Lucky So-And-So " or the deep blues of "Pretty Woman "( which is quite a performance when one listens to the angular and diverse accompaniment from the orchestra ).

Herb Jeffries was a much smoother singer with a rich but clear voice. He built a successful solo career on the foundations of the enormous hit he experienced with " Flamingo ". Highlights here include the underrated " Jump For Joy " and the lesser known ( and non - Ellington tune ) " You, You Darlin' " complete with smooth solos from Ben Webster and Lawrence Brown. Here he turns a rather non-descript into a pleasing performance with thoughtful phrasing in the style of Bing Crosby .

There are many outstanding moments on this disc including the wordless refrain from Adelaide Hall on " Creole Love Call" and the " peppy " vocal trio on " It Don't Mean A Thing". The performances, both instrumental and vocal , are first class through this disc which offers an interesting mixture of well-known and lesser-known fare.

Dick Stafford

D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living in Coventry.



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