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



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DUKE ELLINGTON

Will Big Bands Ever Come Back? / Recollections of the Big Band Eera

American Jazz Classics 99082

 

 

1. Tuxedo Junction

2. Smoke Rings

3. Artistry in Rhythm

4. The Waltz You Saved For Me

5. Woodchopper’s Ball

6. Sentimental Journey

7. When It’s Sleepy Time Down South

8. One O’Clock Jump

9. Goodbye

10. Sleep, Sleep, Sleep

11. Rhapsody in Blue

12. Don’t Get Around Much Any More

13. Minnie the Moocher

14. For Dancers Only

15. It’s a Lonesome Old Town When You’re Not Around

16. Cherokee

17. The Midnight Sun Will Never Set

18. Let’s Get Together

19. I’m Getting’ Sentimental Over You

20. Chant of the Weed

21. Ciribiribin

22. Contrasts

23. Christopher Columbus

24. Auld Lang Syne

 

Duke Ellington , Billy Strayhorn –

Roy Burrowes , Eddie Preston, Cootie Williams, Bill Berry - Trumpets

Ray Nance – Trumpet, violin, vocals

Lawrence Brown , Chuck Connors, Buster Cooper - Trombones

Jimmy Hamilton - Clarinet, tenor sax

Johnny Hodges – Alto sax

Russell Procope – Alto sax, clarinet

Paul Gonsalves - Tenor sax

Harry Carney – Baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet

Ernie Shepard - Bass

Sam Woodyard - Drums

 

And still they come: the reissues of Duke Ellington material. But who’s complaining? Most Ducal reissues simply add to our awareness of his greatness. This CD contains two LPs recorded in late 1962 and early 1963, which both consisted of the Ellington band mostly playing other people’s compositions. Some critics belittle the recordings made at this time, when Ellington was signed to the Reprise label, but in fact there is much here to enjoy and commend.

I actually reviewed the first of these two LPs when they were part of a five-disc set. The album title (Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back) was ironical, as the Ellington Orchestra had never really gone away. But the swing era was certainly over, and the album pays tribute to some of the big bands which had flourished during that era – and even earlier (e.g. Paul Whiteman).

Both these LPs could have been disastrous failures. But they are saved by the quality of Duke’s soloists and the ingenuity of the arrangements. As for the soloists, I stand by the ones I picked out in my previous review (Johnny Hodges and Ray Nance). And I would add Harry Carney, whose baritone sax gives an unexpected slant to Rhapsody in Blue. On numbers like Woodchopper’s Ball and One O’Clock Jump, the solos are shared around between members of the orchestra, each getting their brief moment of fame.

The same applies to some tracks from the second LP, with many soloists contributing short solos to make a satisfying whole. Paul Gonsalves supplies a solo undercurrent for Cherokee, while The Midnoght Sun Will Never Set is impeccably performed by Johnny Hodges. Sam Woodyard’s drum breaks can sometimes feel uncoordinated but he supplies just the right breaks here, as well as colluding with bassist Ernie Shepard to keep the band swinging.

As for the arrangements, Ellington (with Strayhorn) gives some tunes their original settings, but others are transformed in miraculous ways. Artistry in Rhythm is made less forceful than when played by Stan Kenton’s band, with Sam Woodyard suggesting double time on the drums and Ray Nance’s violin adding some unusual twists. You might expect a trombone solo in Tommy Dorsey’s signature tune I’m Getting Sentimental Over You but instead there is Ray Nance being eloquent in just the right way. Auld Lang Syne was associated with Guy Lombardo, whose orchestra was sweet rather than hot, but it becomes a subtle swinger in the Ducal version. Many tracks are given brass or reed interjections behind the soloists.

Many listeners will prefer Duke Ellington playing his own material rather than that of other people, but this whole CD proves that Duke could transform almost anything into Ellingtonia.

Tony Augarde
www.augardebooks.co.uk



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