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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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The Complete 1941-1961

Le Chant du Monde 274 2245.46




1. Take The "A" Train

2. Something To Live For

3. In A Mellotone

4. Time After Time

5. Go Away Blues

6. Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man

7. Route 66

8. All My Life

9. I Just Got The Message, Baby

10. All Too Soon

11. You Don't Love Me No More

12. September In The Rain

13. Summertime

14. Come Rain Or Come Shine

15. A Foggy Day

16. Day By Day

17. When I Fall In Love

18. Blue Moon

19. Where Or When

20. September Song

21. Until The Real Thing Comes Along

22. Billie's Bounce

CD 2

1. Someone To Watch Over Me

2. Why Shouldn't I

3. Jim

4. Polka Dots and Moonbeams

5. For All We Know

6. Rocks In My Bed

7. Just Squeeze Me

8. I Got It Bad

9. Maybe You'll Be There

10. I Had The Craziest Dream

11. 'ats In There

12. The Blues

13. Blues On My Weary Mind

14. I Love My Lovin' Lover

15. Trouble, Trouble

16. I'll Get By

17. Rainy Day Blues

18. Dirty Money Blues

19. Just Give Me A Man

20. I Love My Lovin' Lover

21. Body and Soul

22. Take The "A" Train


Collective personnel

Betty Roché - Vocals

Al Cooper's Savoy Sultans

Duke Ellington, Earl Hines, Ram Ramirez, Don Trenner, Jimmy Neeley - Piano

Rex Stewart, Harold Baker, Wallace Jones, Cappy Oliver, Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson, Conte Candoli - Trumpet

Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown, Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman - Trombone

Chauncey Haughton - Clarinet

Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet, tenor sax

Johnny Hodges, Hilton Jefferson - Alto sax

Russell Procope - Alto sax, clarinet

Ben Webster, Flip Phillips, Jack McVea, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Forrest - Tenor sax

Harry Carney - Alto sax, baritone sax

Otto Hardwick- Alto sax, bass sax

Fred Guy, Al Casey, Bill Jennings, Wally Richardson - Guitar

Junior Raglin, Oscar Pettiford, Frank Clarke, Wendell Marshall, Whitey Mitchell, Michel Mulia - Bass

$onny Greer, Sid Catlett, Louie Bellson, Davey Williams, Roy Haynes, Rudy Lawless - Drums

Ray Nance - Trumpet, violin

Rabon Tarrant - Drums, vocals

Gerald Wilson and his Orchestra

Eddie Costa - Vibes

Jack McDuff - Organ


Betty Roché? You've never heard of her? Many jazz fans may not know her name, even though Betty was with the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the forties and fifties. She sang "The Blues" in the Duke's famous suite, Black, Brown and Beige, which should have marked her out for success, but a strike by the American Federation of Musicians prevented her from following that success with more recordings.

I first encountered Betty Roché on an EP of the Ellington band where she sang Take the "A" Train with commendable spirit. I wondered why I hadn't heard her before, as she was such a notable vocalist, but she was destined to remain in the shadows. So I am glad to welcome this double CD which may introduce her to new listeners.

Like Ella Fitzgerald, Betty started her singing career by winning a talent contest at the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. She performed with the Savoy Sulans and Hot Lips Page before joining Ellington in 1943, the year she recorded The Blues. She then worked with Earl Hines and Gerald Wilson but the rest of the forties was a comparatively blank period for her. She returned to the limelight when she rejoined Ellington in 1952. That was when she recorded the memorable version of Take the "A" Train, which ends this double album and illustrates her new beboppish tendencies. She sings with enthusiasm and humour, scatting and improvising with verve. The track is heightened by the orchestra's superb playing, especially a solo from tenorist Paul Gonsalves. The track lasts for six minutes but it sounds as if it should have been longer but the remastering chopped off the end.

This track typifies Betty's strengths: her clear diction, her ability to sound serious as well as light-hearted, and the swing which she often created by singing slightly behind the beat. Many of her performances are imbued with a feeling for the blues which is evident in such tracks as Come Rain Or Come Shine as well as the five songs with "Blues" in the title. Her singing is often enhanced by some good musicians among her accompanists - such as tenorists Jimmy Forrest and Jack McVea, violinist Ray Nance and, of course, the whole Ellington band.

By the time we reach Betty's 1960 album, Singin' and Swingin', which is included in its entirety, her singing has become extremely adventurous. She scats, bends notes precariously, and takes outrageous liberties, egged on by Jimmy Forrest and organist Jack McDuff. She even plays about with a song like September Song, which is usually performed solemnly or sadly.

My only grouse about this album is that, as on the Carmen McRae album I recently reviewed, the tracks are not arranged chronologically, which conflicts with the personnel listing which is in chronological order. Nonetheless, I am glad that Betty Roché may now be better known because of this collection.

Tony Augarde

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