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



Cotton Tail

Featuring Ivie Anderson






  1. Jack the Bear
  2. Morning Glory
  3. Ko-Ko
  4. Concerto For Cootie (Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me)
  5. Me & You
  6. Cotton Tail
  7. Never No Lament (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore)
  8. Dusk
  9. Bojangles
  10. A Portrait of Bert Williams
  11. Harlem Air-Shaft
  12. Sepia Panorama
  13. In a Mellotone
  14. Five O’clock Whistle
  15. Warm Valley
  16. Chlo-e
  17. Across the Track Blues
  18. The Sidewalks of New York
  19. Flamingo
  20. Rumpus in Richmond

Cootie Williams, Wallace Jones – Trumpets, Rex Stewart – Cornet
Tricky Sam Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Juan Tizol – Trombone
Johnny Hodges – Alto & Sop, Otto Hardwick – Alto & Bass, Ben Webster - Tenor, Harry Carney – Baritone & Clarinet.
Ellington – Piano, Fred Guy – Guitar, Jimmy Blanton – Bass,
Sonny Greer – Drums.
Although not listed as being present, Barney Bigard – Tenor & Clarinet and Ray Nance – Cornet are also mentioned in the sleeve note.

Students of the Duke’s work, refer to this as the Blanton/Webster band, thought by many to be his finest. Personally I feel that the Duke went on to even greater things with his later bands, but one cannot deny that this was a very good band indeed. It had a wealth of wonderful soloists; Ben Webster must be one of the finest Tenor Sax players that have ever graced the world of jazz. His tone is unique, sometimes referred to by Humph as ‘Ben’s breathalyser’, Ben never filled his solos with a million notes as is the modern vogue, he knew that they count for nothing!

His partner on Tenor, Barney Bigard, was also a fine musician and an excellent Clarinet player. Johnny Hodges is another giant of jazz, who was both excellent section leader and superb soloist. Harry Carney was at this time the uncrowned king of the Baritone Sax. The other sections were equally well blessed with fine musicians Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, Sam Nanton and Lawrence Brown in the Brass and Jimmy Blanton, Sonny Greer, not forgetting The Duke himself in the Rhythm Section.

The musical selections on this record are also remarkable; it is amazing that the band produced so many high quality recordings in such a short period. Many are classic arrangements, Do Nothing, In a Mellotone, Don’t Get Around Much and Cottontail have all become standards. Every track however is a gem, only Ellington could get so much out of Chlo-e, an unlikely vehicle for a jazz orchestra.

Seventeen of the twenty selections on the record originated from the Ellington pen. He had the ability to take a band full of extravert soloists and make the whole thing into a well-rehearsed orchestra. Anyone who has tried this will tell you that it is a difficult ask. By 1940 Billy Strayhorn was around and his arranging skills so beautifully dovetailed with those of Ellington, that it is difficult to tell who did which part of any of their arrangements.

If anyone can tell me whether In A Mellotone (from the sleeve) is erroneous, I have always known it as In A Mellow Tone, I would be grateful, it is the same tune!

There are some vocals from Ivie Anderson, tracks 5 & 14, so why the front cover says ‘featuring Ivie Anderson’ is a mystery, there is also a vocal from Herb Jeffries on track 19.

This CD is a must for all serious jazz collectors and should be compulsory listening for all students of Big Band Music and Jazz!

Don Mather


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