Duke Ellington is one of the most important Jazz/Big Band artists of all-time. He has influenced generations of performers. Here are two original classic LPs on one CD. Featured songs include "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart," "Lady In Red" and "Indian Love Call."
Personnel: Duke Ellington (piano); Al Hibbler (vocals); Ray Nance (violin); Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet); Paul Gonsalves (saxophone); Johnny Hodges (alto saxophone); Clark Terry (flugelhorn).
Liner Note Author: Irving Townsend.
Recording information: 03/03/1938-04/01/1958.
The ever-resourceful Collectables label combines two Duke Ellington albums originally issued in the 1950s. As per the cutesy photo of two white college kids (posing and puckering without actually kissing) used as a logo in the upper left hand corner of Columbia's House Party series, this compilation provides the 21st century listener with an accurate taste of what was most likely some of the only music by Duke Ellington to make its way into millions of North American homes during the Eisenhower Era. The producers of this reissue package are to be commended for providing a schematic index of titles, Columbia serial numbers and dates of recording and release. This makes it possible to clearly assess the vintage of the music and place it within an appropriate historical context. Released in 1955, Duke's Mixture was a 10" 33 1/3 long-playing record containing a total of six songs; by definition it could almost qualify as an EP. What it amounts to is a sampler of Ellington favorites dating from the years 1938, 1947, 1951 and 1952. Highlights here include Harry Carney's baritone sax on "V.I.P.'s Boogie," Al Hibbler's vocal on "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me," and a thrilling six-and-a-half minute version of "The Mooche." For six nights out of each week during March and April 1958, Duke Ellington & His Orchestra played for the vacationing public in the Bal Masque, a dining establishment within the Hotel Americana in Miami Beach, FL. Inspired perhaps by the venue as well as its clientele, Ellington chose to present a series of songs that were well outside of his regular repertoire. Hearing this band perform "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?" is both a treat and a reminder that Ellington could take on any song and make it wonderful. Indeed within a few years he would tackle Mary Poppins and come out on top. "Satin Doll" is the only one of 12 tunes on At the Bal Masque written by Duke Ellington; here is a rare opportunity to savor his interpretations of melodies composed by such diverse musical minds as Larry Clinton, Rudolf Friml, Victor Herbert and Ted Fiorito. What's more, both "The Peanut Vendor" and "The Lady in Red" sound as if Ellington wrote them himself. Originally released in 1959, At the Bal Masque works nicely coupled with Duke's Mixture in this affordable and enjoyable edition. Highly recommended both as the perfect introduction to Duke Ellington and a satisfying addition to any existing Ellington collection. ~ arwulf arwulf