truth is, I know little about jazz and less about Ellingtons
work. But having listened intensely to the new 3-CD set, The
Duke:The Essential Collection, I can safely say that The Duke
Ellington Orchestra is the Cadillac of big bandssmooth, spacious
and with serious power under the hood.To
carry the vintage car analogy too far, in the early days The
DEO was more like a Mustang, not sacrificing class for speed and
incarnation is represented on the first disc (1927-1940), easily
my favorite of the three. But then, Im partial to early big
band, when the groups were scrappy and sassy and playing a kind
of raw, passionate music that hasnt been approximated since.
The second and third discs find the Orchestra in full-on luxury
mode, performing the kind of smooth big band jazz that appealed
to dancing couples in the 1950s and early 60s. There is so
much going on in even the simplest of pieces that the compositions
hold up in a way contemporary pop never does. Moreover, the range
of The Dukes influences is staggering, drawing from blues,
classical, opera, and standards. His music was simply flawless,
never overdone or garish.
The Duke; The Essential Collection (1927-1962)
my editor gave me this collection for review, she either neglected
to provide the promotional materials, or I lost them in the swamp
of my office. The upshot is I have only the discsno cover
art or liner notesand thus nothing to crib from. There is
just the music.
course, I can provide no true insight into the genius that is
abundantly apparent here. There are many dedicated jazzbos who
could tell you which drummer plays on which selection, the evolution
of compositions, and loads of other minutiae of which Im
unaware. Fortu-nately, since we just passed the centennial
of The Dukes birth, information on his work is easily procured.
But the fact that these three discs stand so well on their own,
sans historical insights and recording notes, is the strongest
testament to how essential this set really is.