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
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