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Duke Ellington Presents by Duke Ellington Orchestra

This newly re-released CD, "Duke Ellington presents," originally recorded by Bethlehem Records in 1956, gives the listener a great to chance to hear the legendary Duke’s band in its prime. Particularly, in this release the band’s premier musicians are featured in solos. We get a chance to hear them at their best in mostly classic standard tunes given Ellington arrangements.

"Summertime" features the king of high-note trumpeters, Cat Anderson, who hits the stratosphere in the closing bars. In "My Funny Valentine" clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton’s warm tone contrasts with the growls of Quentin Jackson's trombpone (a typically colorful Ellington touch). We hear another Hamilton gem in "Deep Purple," which resonates with his sweet and pure sound.

Vocalist Jimmy Grissom precisely enunciates the irony in "Everything But You." That cynicism is exacerbated in the next cut, "Frustration," which features the artistry of Harry Carney, who pioneered a new style of soloing on the baritone sax. Here his horn literally cries out with pain.

Stalwart tenor sax star Paul Gonsalves gets plenty of room to shine. This is the year the '56 Newport Jazz Festival made him a star with his 27-chorus solo in "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." First we hear him in a mellow mood in "Laura," and then he comes on like "gangbusters"’ in his hard-driving, gutsy turn in "Cotton Tail."

Another signature figure in the band was Johnny Hodges on alto. We get a nice helping of his silky and sexy timbre on "Day Dream." To hear his exquisite tone and beautiful phrasing is, itself, worth the price of the record.

Ray Nance did triple duty during this time, playing trumpet and violin, as well as singing smooth jazz as he does in the plaintive "I Can’t Get Started." This number is also punctuated by Duke's stride-like piano intro. In other numbers, the leader gives himself ample time to shine on the keyboard.

In the closing selection, "Blues," the whole lineup is given blowing time, capped by the duel, trading fours, between trumpeter Clark Terry and drummer Sam Woodyard.

For fans of Ellingtonia, this is an essential release.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Duke Ellington Orchestra
  • CD Title: Duke Ellington Presents
  • Genre: Straight-Ahead / Classic
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Bethlehem Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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