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Duke Ellington

Festival Session

JAZZ IMAGES 38004 [72:30]



Duke Ellington – Festival Session


Copout Extension

Duel Fuel, Parts 1-3

Idiom ’59, Parts 1-3

Things Ain’t What They Used To Be

Launching Pad

Bonus Tracks

The Harlem Suite

The Controversial Suite, Parts 1 and 2

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra

Recorded September 1959 except The Harlem Suite and The Controversial Suite, 1951


Festival Session refers to the studio recording Ellington made of pieces he had presented at the Newport and Playboy jazz festivals in 1959. There were, admittedly, old favourites such as Perdido and Things Ain’t. In fact Copout Extension is a kind of elaboration of the piece recorded in 1957 as simply Copout. But Duel Fuel, Idiom ’59 and Launching Pad were new and some of the items in this disc were premiered in July 1959 at Newport. The last-named piece in point of fact was written by Clark Terry and orchestrated by Ellington. Added to the disc are two suites: one very well-known and the other largely and possibly deservedly forgotten.

It’s Terry who is the star of Perdido, his fluid sinuous soloing including inimitable evidence of his capricious and vitalising individuality. No wonder there’s a practiced cry of ‘Clark Terry’ at the end, the modern-day equivalent of ‘Oh Play that Thing’ – and just as merited. The eight-minute Copout Extension is largely a feature for Gonsalves, a reminiscence of his famous Newport 1956 virtuoso flourish on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. Drummer Sam Woodyard is on hard to beat out a similarly inflexible but rock-steady beat and Gonsalves gives the listener much of what they want even if he does run out of ideas toward the end.

Duel Fuel is in three parts and features a drum battle between Woodyard and Jimmy Johnson separated by a central, pithy movement with a piano-led riff. Your tolerance for this will depend on your liking for compressed drum battles. Idiom’59 is also cast in three movements and represents an altogether more exalted standard. The saxophone textures are sublime; Russell Procope’s alto and that of Johnny Hodges blend well over the bass clarinet – as well as the more expected baritone sax – of Harry Carney. Carney’s bass clarinet work here can be heard in almost perfect definition. What a superb player he was, on whatever instrument he graced, and how under-estimated still, one feels. It’s also engaging to contrast Jimmy Hamilton’s quintessentially classical-toned clarinet playing – a marble pillar of sound – with Procope’s richer, more rugged tone. To add to the pleasure there’s a characteristically insouciant Ducal piano solo in the final panel of the suite. If you were waiting for solo Hodges you have to wait until Things Ain’t – and it’s quite a wait – whilst Terry stars on Launching Pad.

The bonus tracks go back to December 1951. The Harlem Suite is too well-known for much comment, except don’t overlook Hamilton’s haunting clarinet, but The Controversial Suite needs a few words. It had a very short shelf life in the Duke’s book. It’s a mélange of Jazz styles in two parts, a kind of historical critique with cod-Dixieland, New Orleans and Swing. The first part is sub-titled ‘Before My Time’ (whose, one wonders?) and the second ‘Later’. Either way, it’s pretty terrible and it’s no surprise - the joke wearing thin – that Duke dropped it.

The Festival Session has been reissued with other couplings that may be more tempting than the two suites. But with a handy gatefold card this 24-bit remastered transfer emerges very well indeed.

Jonathan Woolf

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