Personnel: Duke Ellington (leader, piano); Russell Procope (alto saxophone, clarinet); Jimmy Hamilton (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Harry Carney (baritone saxophone, clarinet); Rick Henderson (alto saxophone); Paul Gonsalves (tenor saxophone); Willie Cook, Clark Terry, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson (trumpet); Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson, John Sanders (trombone); Jimmy Woode (bass); Dave Black (drums).
Recorded live at the Embassy Auditorium, Los Angeles, California on April 13, 1954. Includes liner notes by Stanley Dance.
The "renaissance" of Ellington was two years away--his triumphant Newport concert that jump-started his somewhat flagging popularity. All the big bands were struggling at this point in time--but the Duke was still a draw, and still could deliver, despite the (temporary) loss of ace soloist Johnny Hodges. Here, his piano playing is especially tasty, a bit more front-and-center than usual. The program consists of hits--"Mood Indigo," "Satin Doll," "Take the A Train"--and a few pieces composed by long-time band members: clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton ("Theme for Trambean") and high-note trumpet king Cat Anderson (the whimsical "Blue Jean Beguine"). More an album for hard-core Ellington/big band fans than neophytes, this disc is a worthy addition to any jazz collection favoring large groups strutting their stuff in a concert setting.