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



Classic Recordings Vol. 3 : 1932 -1935

Naxos Jazz Legends 8.120589

Amazon UK

Duke Ellington - piano with collective personnel of:

Arthur Whetsel, Freddie Jenkins, Cootie Williams - trumpet
Rex Stewart - cornet
Joe Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Juan Tizol - trombone
Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Otto Hardwick, Barney Bigard - reeds
Fred Guy - guitar / banjo
Wellman Braud, Billy Taylor, Hayes Alvis - bass
Sonny Greer - drums

1. Merry-Go-Round
2. Slippery Horn
3. Dallas Doings
4. Rude Interlude
5. Dear Old Southland
6. Daybreak Express
7. Delta Serenade
8. Stompy Jones
9. Ebony Rhapsody
10. My Old Flame
11. Moonglow
12. Indigo Echoes
13. Tough Truckin'
14. Truckin'
15. In A Sentimental Mood
16. Reminiscing In Tempo . Parts 1 - 4
17. Showboat Shuffle

The years 1932 - 1935 were to prove a highly stable time for the Duke Ellington Orchestra in terms of personnel and a time of evolution for Ellington himself as a composer. This third volume in the Classic Recordings Series is significant in that it contains Duke's second recorded attempt at an extended work outside of the three minute limit imposed by the 78 rpm disc. ( The first being "Creole Rhapsody" in 1931 ). "Reminiscing In Tempo " is in four parts - written to fit on four sides of the conventional record of the day. Whilst this period proved to be settled with regards to the musicians in his orchestra, as mentioned earlier, it was to be a time of great sadness and personal upheaval for Ellington. "Reminiscing" was written to assuage and express the depth of emotion caused by the death of his mother - an event which, for a period of time, brought him to a virtual standstill and left its mark throughout the rest of his life ( when he was honoured at the White House on the occasion of his 70th birthday he is reported to have said, " There is no place I would rather be tonight except in my mother's arms").

Although this composition received a very mixed recepton at the time from the more serious critics - Spike Hughes described it as "a long, rambling monstrosity", it is harmonically a most advanced work and points the way to subsequent glories. Ellington himself described it as beginning " with pleasant thoughts, then something awful gets you down. Then you snap out of it and it ends affirmatively." Suffice it to say that no Ellington record collection can claim to be truly comprehensive if it does not contain this composition.

The rest of this disc is full of further delights. "Daybreak Express" is one of those highly evocative " train" tunes which punctuated Ellington's career and can only be categorised as a joyous romp. "Dallas Doings " is another version of Rockin' In Rhythm" and "Rude Interlude " is a skit on the habit of Constant Lambert's wife of referring to "Mood Indigo" as "Rude Indigo". This tune features Cootie Williams on trumpet and a wordless vocal by Louis Bacon.

"Tough Truckin' " has an Ivie Anderson refrain and "Truckin' " was an early feature for Rex Stewart, among others. Mae West is the singer on "My Old Flame" and, once again, Ivie Anderson is heard to great effect on "Ebony Rhapsody ". There are also early versions of such Ellington classics as "Stompy Jones " and "In A Sentimental Mood".

This is indispensable Ellington!

Dick Stafford

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

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