The Great Duke Ellington Vocalists
The Duke Ellington Orchestra + various vocalists ( as listed after
each selection )
Recorded 1927 - 1946
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
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
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.
D.S. is a professional reed player and teacher living