1. (Opening Theme) Take the "A" Train
2. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree
3. Kissing Bug
4. Ellington Bond Promo
5. Bugle Breaks
6. A Friend of Yours
7. West Indian Dance
8. Ellington Bond Promo
9. Tonight I Shall Sleep
10. Stomp, Look and Listen
11. I'm Beginning To See the Light
12. (Theme) Take the "A" Train
The Magazine Suite:
13. a) Downbeat Shuffle
14. b) Esquire Swank
15. c) Metronome All Out
Ellington Bond Promo
16. If You Are but a Dream
19. Ellington Bond Promo
20. Main Steam
21. Take the "A" Train Into Broadcast Close
23. A Door Will Open
24. My Little Brown Book
25. Stomp, Look and Listen
1. Waiting for the Train to Come In
2. Diminuendo in Blue
3. Rocks in my Bed
4. Crescendo in Blue
5. Everything but You
6. (Opening Theme) Take the 'A ' Train
7. In A Mellotone
8. The Wish I Wish Tonight
9. Ellington Bond Promo
10. C-Jam Blues
11. Ultra Violet
12. There's No You
13. Emancipation Celebration
14. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
15. Let the Zoomers Drool
16. (Theme) Take the "A" Train
17. Reminiscing in Tempo
18. Everything But You into Ellington Bond Promo
20. Mood To Be Wooed
21. Tea for Two
22. Ellington Bond Promo
23. Blues on the Double
24. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
Duke Ellington - Piano, arranger, leader
Billy Strayhorn - Piano, arranger
Rex Stewart, Taft Jordan, Shelton Hemphill, Cat Anderson - Trumpets
Ray Nance - Trumpet, violin, vocals
Joseph Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Claude Jones - Trombones
Johnny Hodges, Otto Hardwick - Alto saxes
Al Sears - Tenor sax
Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet, tenor sax
Harry Carney - Baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Fred Guy - Guitar
Junior Raglin - Bass
Sonny Greer - Drums
Kay Davis, Al Hibbler, Joya Sherrill - Vocals
Having reviewed volumes 14 and 15 of The Treasury Shows, I was a bit surprised to receive volume 8. However, I am not inclined to quibble about numbering, as this is music I would be happy to hear in any order. These programmes were made by Duke Ellington's orchestra to raise funds for the US Treasury, and they ran from April to November 1945 and resumed from April to October 1946. The only drawback to these recordings is that the music is interrupted by frequent appeals to listeners to buy War Bonds, listed above as "Ellington Bond Promo". Yet the music is so magnificent that you can almost ignore these interruptions.
This double CD contains various broadcasts recorded in 1945, with surprisingly acceptable sound quality. One thing I particularly like is that you can hear Sonny Greer's drums, which have not always been audible on recordings of the band. The personnel is smaller than on volume 15 but the music illustrates what wonders Ellington could arrange with less than 20 instrumentalists.
The band starts in jovial mood with a tongue-in-cheek version of In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree, with Rex Stewart inserting a military fanfare and Tricky Sam Nanton's trombone sounding slightly parodic. Johnny Hodges' solo asserts sanity although its twirls are uncharacteristically cheeky. Joya Sherrill sings the rather poppy Kissing Bug but Billy Strayhorn's orchestration makes it worthwhile.
Bugle Breaks was premiered in the musical Jump For Joy and it features Rex Stewart emulating Cat Anderson's squeaky high notes. The friendly tone of Lawrence Brown's trombone provides restful interludes. Rex Stewart is highlighted again in A Friend of Yours, and he proves that he can play romantically as well as eccentrically. The sleeve lists him as playing the trumpet but I'm fairly sure he uses the cornet throughout.
West Indian Dance is the first of two pieces from Duke's Black, Brown and Beige suite in this compilation, the second being Emancipation Celebration. The Magazine Suite is an entirely new three-part composition. The band played it a few more times in 1945 and 1946 but never thereafter. It is remarkable how many Ellington compositions were allowed to sink without trace like this, suggesting that the Duke wrote much more than he could keep in his orchestra's repertoire. This is a shame, as pieces like The Magazine Suite are full of invention. The third section of the suite - Metronome All Out - is even interrupted for one of Duke's appeals for people to buy War Bonds.
Blutopia is another example of a piece that dropped out of the band's repertoire. It was premiered at the 1944 Carnegie Hall concert but was never played after 1947. This is where these Treasury Shows albums are so valuable: they remind us of the many great creations of Duke Ellington (often with Billy Strayhorn). Blutopia lasts for only about four minutes but parts of it are almost avant-garde, with unexpected voicings and tempo changes.
Duke wrote many tunes about railway trains, but Waiting for the Train to Come In was not one of his inventions. Still, it gives Johnny Hodges (Ellington's secret weapon) the chance to solo rhapsodically. Diminuendo in Blue is separated from Crescendo in Blue by Rocks in my Bed, here sung by Joya Sherrill. Thank goodness Diminuendo and Crescendo were united to reignite Ellington's career in 1956.
The sound echoes more from track 6 of the second CD, apparently because these tracks were recorded in an empty ballroom. The outstanding track here is Reminiscing in Tempo, written by Duke ten years previously to mark the death of his mother. The track lasts for nearly 12 minutes and passes through a range of moods and emotions. Another Ducal masterpiece is Ko-Ko, first recorded in 1940 and considered revolutionary at the time. It continued to sound exotic, with Tricky Sam Nanton playing his plunger-muted solo and Junior Raglin performing the bass part which was originally designed for Jimmie Blanton. The CD ends with a blues - a typical Ellington genre, although this one was written by Buck Clayton.
I haven't commented on every track because there are so many good things here and you can be assured that there are masterly solos on nearly every tune. How many modern big bands could match this cornucopia of invention and musicality?