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Duke Ellington in the Thirties

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, his Famous Orchestra, his Cotton Club Orchestra, his Jungle Band
rec. New York 1930-39
LIVING ERACD AJS 2015 [76:27 + 75:19]

Disc One
1.: Jungle Nights In Harlem
2.: Jungle Blues
3.: Ring Dem Bells
4.: Mood Indigo (Dreamy Blues)
5.: Rockin' In Rhythm
6.: Creole Rhapsody
7.: Echoes Of The Jungle
8.: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing
9.: Lazy Rhapsody (Swannee River Rhapsody)
10.: Blue Harlem
11.: Swampy River
12.: Blue Ramble
13.: Lightnin'
14.: Sophisticated Lady
15.: Drop Me Off At Harlem
16.: Bundle Of Blues (Dragon Blues)
17.: Harlem Speaks
18.: Dear Old Southland
19.: Daybreak Express
20.: Stompy Jones
21.: Solitude
22.: Saddest Tale
23.: Merry Go Round (Harlem Rhythm)
Disc Two

1.: In A Sentimental Mood
2.: Showboat Shuffle
3.: Reminiscing In Tempo
4.: Oh Babe Maybe Someday
5.: Clarinet Lament (Barney's Concerto)
6.: Echoes Of Harlem (Cootie's Concerto)
7.: Trumpet In Spades (Rex's Concerto)
8.: Yearning For Love (Lawrence's Concerto)
9.: In A Jam
10.: Uptown Downbeat (Blackout
11.: Caravan
12.: Diminuendo And Crescendo In Blue
13.: Harmony In Harlem
14.: Ridin' On A Blue Note
15.: Gal From Joe's
16.: I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
17.: Rose Of The Rio Grande
18.: Prelude To A Kiss
19.: Battle Of Swing (Le Jazz Hot)
20.: Blue Light (Transblucency)
21.: Grievin'

Those who’ve been lending an ear to Living Era’s Ellington series thus far will know how industrious this outfit has been. They’ve already released The Duke Steps Out, a compilation of recordings from the 1920s, and Stomp, Look and Listen which includes tracks from the 1940s – thus including the Blanton sides inter alia. Now they release this twofer of sides made between 1930 and 1939 and they thus complete a run of recordings.

The compilation has been done with considerable care. I commend the Living Era team for this. Vic Bellerby and Ray Crick have the knack of coming up with canonic but also slightly lesser known things. I also greatly like the way they have programmed the four "concerti" Ellington wrote for eminent sidemen. They run consecutively though they were actually recorded on two separate days – the Barney Bigard and Cootie Williams concertos were recorded in February 1936 and those for Rex Stewart and Lawrence Brown followed in July of the same year. Imaginatively we can now listen to them one after the other.

I should also commend the team for full discographic information, which includes matrix, release and dating information as well as details as to which player solos on which number. As ever I wish Living Era would discontinue its reliance on the discredited "Top Hit" information which they have garnered form a book on which no one should rely. I also don’t want to pit one wing of this company against another but Living Era’s Classical wing would do well to listen to these transfers. Charlie Crump has done an excellent job. There’s definition, clarity and depth here. Running A/B tests against a number of LP and CD transfers one can hear a far greater bass definition here and a greater immediacy. There’s a touch of surface noise – but then there should be.

A splendid restoration job, then, on these Brunswicks, Columbias, Victors and Orioles.

Jonathan Woolf


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