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Duke Ellington -The Great Concerts; London and New York, 1963 - 1964

NIMBUS NI 2704/05 [66:40 + 49:16]



Disc 1 - London
Take the "A" Train
Duke Ellington: Introduction
The Opener
Take the "A" Train
Mood Indigo
C Jam Blues
Don't Get Around Much Anymore
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
Single Petal of a Rose
Kinda Dukish & Rockin' in Rhythm
The Duke Ellington Orchestra
Recorded Feb 20, 1964 and Jan 22, 1963 in London
Disc 2 - New York
Take the "A" Train
Satin Doll
Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall
Blues Medley: Happy-Go-Lucky Local / John Sanders' Blues / C Jam Blues
Carolina Shout
Things Ain't What They Used To Be
Melancholia / Reflections in D
Little African Flower
Bird of Paradise
Single Petal of a Rose
Duke Ellington (piano): Peck Morrison (bass) Sam Woodyard (drums)
Willie "The Lion" Smith (piano on Carolina Shout), Billy Strayhorn (piano on Things Ain't What They Used To Be and Melancholia / Reflections in D)
rec. 20 May 1964 at the Wollman Auditorium, Columbia University, New York


From the brief few words welcoming the Ellington band to London in February 1964 – spoken unmistakably by Steve Race – we are in for an exciting aural ride. We are also, so far as I’m aware, in for an audio representation of the Jazz 625 filmed-for-broadcast concert that Ellington gave for the BBC, though this is not mentioned in the booklet. A number of these TV programmes were shown again many years ago and then once again, more recently, this time mucked about with the original presenters excised and trendy new ‘talking heads’ parachuted in; as the originals were in black and white and the new presenters in colour it looked spectacularly foolish. Since then DVD reissues have followed though I can’t confirm whether the original versions were used or the silly modish ‘replacements’. In any case you can supplement your audio experience with the visual experience of seeing the band as well as hearing them in other formats. The second London concert in this double CD set was recorded the previous year and not for Jazz 625.

The band was in especially fine form for the 625 session – once past Duke’s regular corny welcoming lines (‘We love you madly’ and ‘…you’re so hip…we don’t dare!’ for those unfamiliar with Ducal style). There are some blazing trumpets in Perdido in a strong arrangement and Cootie Williams glowers and lowers in Caravan. Hodges comes on like double cream in Isfahan, a beautiful performance and Duke’s descriptive verbal introduction to Harlem is well worth a listen in itself, let alone the shifting patterns of this tone parallel. Let’s be charitable and pass over, yet again, Ellington’s bizarre taste in vocalists – Ernie Shepard murders Take the "A" Train unforgivably. The second London concert features the same band members and also Ray Nance’s violin as well. Jimmy Hamilton excels on his clarinet solo on C Jam Blues but another horrendous vocalist, Milt Grayson, indulges his quasi-operatic lungs in a losing battle with Don't Get Around Much Anymore. Gonsalves sounds gloriously unstale in his standby Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue.

The second disc is devoted to a May 1964 concert at the Wollman Auditorium, Columbia University, New York, given by Duke and his trio – bassist Peck Morrison and Sam Woodyard. Ellington laces established skills and cheeky stride in Caravan. Skillipoop is mainly Woodyard and Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall is a droll ‘poem’ and there’s an excellent blues medley. Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith makes a valued appearance for Carolina Shout and Billy Strayhorn for Tonk and Things Ain't What They Used To Be. Ellington gets more wistful it seems as the concert develops and a succession of melancholically tinged solos – introspective, impressionist, affecting - ends the recital. Ellington always denied being a pianist, always modestly claiming only to be ‘a piano player’. Some piano player!

Documentation is full and extensive and the sound is first class.

Jonathan Woolf

See also review by Tony Augarde




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