Duke Ellington

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What are your favorite works, phases of his career, and so on? I hardly know his work. I hardly like jazz. But this morning, I'm listening to Togo Bava Suite and mostly liking it. I wonder if I might actually prefer his late suite work to some of his more famous swing era stuff. But what do you all think of Ellington?

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 13:58 (11 years ago) Permalink

Ellington is God, of course. I am a big fan of the later stuff. Still probing the earlier work. Fabulous albums I recommend without reservation:

And His Mother Called Him Bill--tribute to Billy Strayhorn after his death, full of re-readings of Strayhorn compositions, very moving and elegiac.

The Far East Suite--Ellington goes to India, integrates it into his sound. This does not mean lots of tablas and such; they are still playing big band jazz, but the melodies and arrangements are Eastern-inflected.

The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse--ditto, but with Africa this time. One of the last albums he did (some of the tracks never got official titles). Some pounding stuff on this one. Also includes fabulous intro voiceover in which Duke cites McLuhan.

The New Orleans Suite--swings like hell. A few old blues and jazz classics mixed in with new compositions. Like floating down the river on a gambling boat, etc.

Such Sweet Thunder--Suite based on characters from Shakespeare. Some of his most prettiest melodies and most complex arrangements. Some of the tracks really do sound like the characters they're named for.

Money Jungle--Trio with Max Roach and Mingus. Has become slightly overrated I think--essentially they're just jamming--but it sounds sophisticated, loose and improvisational and hey, what a band.

Back to Back--Duet with Duke on piano, Johnny Hodges on guitar. Great blues wailing.

Black, Brown and Beige--the first and most famous suite. Never released in complete form (he kept reworking it after poor initial reception), but there's a great reissue with a good part of it, including Come Sunday, awesome spiritual with Mahalia Jackson.

Ben Williams, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 14:10 (11 years ago) Permalink

I came close to buying Afro-Eurasian Eclipse many times, on the basis of the title and cover. I wish I had. Maybe I will make that my first Ellington purchase.

Rockist Scientist, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 14:19 (11 years ago) Permalink

find "Braggin' in Brass", a 2-CD set featuring his 1938 orchestra. Oh my freakin' god, is that some beautiful lively melancholy shit indeed.

Also: read any bio of him. Amazing man, interesting messy contradictory unbelievable American life.

Neudonym, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 14:51 (11 years ago) Permalink

I second Ben's suggestions, especially And His Mother Called Him Bill, Far East Suite, and Money Jungle.

I would also suggest Latin American Suite, which is very much in the mode of Far East, et al, and one of my sleeper faves among his albums, and the admittedly somewhat less successful Afro-Bossa; coupla killer tunes on there.

Lee G (Lee G), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 15:10 (11 years ago) Permalink

Speaking of bios, John Edward Hasse's Beyond Category is a good career/artistic overview. I learned a lot.

Lee G (Lee G), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 15:17 (11 years ago) Permalink

For those tempted to dabble with earler Ellington here's a Proper box set called "Materpieces 1926-49". It's a great starting point for that era and a stunning bargain - 4 full length cds, £13.99 from Amazon UK ($21.99 from Amazon in US).

It's astonishing to hear how the band lifts off after Jimmy Blanton joins. He was only 20 and he reinvented jazz bass. One of the great overlooked geniuses of the century.

ArfArf, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 16:29 (11 years ago) Permalink

And His Mother Called Him Bill is lovely. Especially that "Lotus Blossom" cut.

s1utsky (slutsky), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 17:01 (11 years ago) Permalink

Ben nails it.
for the early stuff the Blanton-Webster bands is usually considered the killah.
for the 50's i like Uptown.

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 21:56 (11 years ago) Permalink

Great stuff from all decades, but my favorite is 1940-42: Look for The Blanton-Webster Band, The Great Ellington Units, and The Duke at Fargo.

Burr (Burr), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 22:48 (11 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, 'And His Mother Called Him Bill' and 'Far East Suite' are the late Ellingtons I like best - 'Blood Count' on the former is motherfuckingly weepingly beautiful. I sort've agree w/ Ben W abt 'Money Jungle' being just a bit overrated, but on the opening track the Duke sounds like Cecil Taylor! That's the thing abt Ellington that grabs me - how MODERN he always sounds, whatever the era/context - see also his duo alb w/ Coltrane (esp. on the wonderful opening cut of 'In A Sentimental Mood').

Also agreed abt the Proper box being terrific value.

Andrew L (Andrew L), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 22:59 (11 years ago) Permalink

money jungle is the only one i own, and it always seemed a bit opaque to me (maybe relating to ben's "jamming" comment).

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:04 (11 years ago) Permalink

by that i mean there are plenty of good bits and bobs in there - basslines, melodies, drum parts - that stand out on listening but i couldn't hum any of it for you right now.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:04 (11 years ago) Permalink

and of course being able to hum it isn't a requirement for merit in this newfangled jazz music - i can't exactly hum cecil taylor either - but for some reason it seems important here.

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:09 (11 years ago) Permalink

they do a version of caravan don't they? and i still can't remember how it sounds there: i think i know what you mean jess.

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:12 (11 years ago) Permalink

Eh, I dunno. I always though Money Jungle was a lot more focused and tuneful than most of the stuff coming out around then. Solitude is a nice litte tune.

oops (Oops), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:14 (11 years ago) Permalink

i will admit here that my tolerance for jazz has been markedly decreasing over the last couple years, so i'm willing to accept that it might me a "it's not you, it's me" thing. (i'm not a patient fellow, anyway.)

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:16 (11 years ago) Permalink

It sounds like Caravan! You can't really forget that tune. But they don't do anything wild with it.

To me Money Jungle is having nice coffee and pastry in the morning music. It's got atmosphere and it sounds good, but they're not splitting the atom or anything. I think Mingus is the best thing on it, he's rolling along.

Blood Clot really is amazing. It billows and hangs in the air. That's my favorite Ellington album I think.

Ben Williams, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:20 (11 years ago) Permalink

no i can't forget the tune, but from elsewhere. i just can't remember the *ahem* arrangement.

blood clot? tell me more...

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:28 (11 years ago) Permalink

(It's on And His Mother Called Him Bill)

Ben Williams, Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:30 (11 years ago) Permalink

o yeah. i thought you meant there was an album called that.

gaz (gaz), Wednesday, 4 June 2003 23:32 (11 years ago) Permalink

Newport 1956 Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. It's such a cliche, but that track really is fantastic. The rest of the concert's good too. I also like the Ellington/Hawkins album. Basically, you can't go wrong with Ellington - he always employed top-flight musicians even when he couldn't really afford them. The "Anatomy of a Murder" album is a bit scrappy, but that's film soundtracks for you.

Stuart Nicholson's Reminiscing in Tempo is a good book - a mainly oral history of Ellington.

Andrew Norman, Thursday, 5 June 2003 13:31 (11 years ago) Permalink

I think Money Jungle sounds pretty dangerous. Not in the sense that they're taking it WAY OUT or anything, but the personalities involved. Apparently both were pretty intimidated playing with Ellington (especially Mingus, didn't he walk out for a bit in the middle of the session with self-esteem issues?), it sounds like a mix of nervous energy and wanting to really make their own statements (some would call it overplaying, I love it). Mingus is playing so ahead sometimes it sounds like everything might fall over. It sounds like Ellington is having a good time trying to fit in though.

Jordan (Jordan), Thursday, 5 June 2003 15:07 (11 years ago) Permalink

I don't think anyone's mentioned that 24-CD (!!) RCA Victor boxed set - no, I don't have it, but I have the 3-CD overview (link below), which is excellent (and it pretty much spans his entire career, 1927-1973). A version of "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" would've been a welcome inclusion (as that's one of my favorites), but Ella's take hits the spot for me. Ya know, "Caravan" has been covered by freakin' everyone, but my favorite version is Ellington's own (included on the 3-CD set) - it's utterly eerie and amazing.


Ernest P. (ernestp), Thursday, 5 June 2003 15:09 (11 years ago) Permalink

I treasure Money Jungle if only for its tender version of "Warm Valley," which a better writer than me once described as the Duke's "vulvic ode."

And as much as I love the version of "Blood Count" on And His Mother . . ., when I hear the tune in my head I hear Andy Bey's version (with lyrics) on his amazing Shades of Bey album.

After rereading the initial question, I must ad another vote for the Blanton-Webster set. If you don't fall in love with at least some of this music, I question what it is you like music for.

While I love the later album/suite oriented era, I think his earlier swing-era and pre-swing material sometimes gets short shrift because people assume they know it because they know "Take the A Train" and "Satin Doll." Plus there are about a kabillion different Ellington collections from his earlier days, so it's hard to know how to tackle it.

RCA owns a lot of great early Ellington; if you see any single discs on their Bluebird imprint from Ellington's early career in a used bin, grab 'em (not least cause they're out of print). As much as I like prime and late Ellington, my life would be poorer without "The Mooche," "The Dicty Glide," the earliest "Mood Indigo," and countless more.

Also, there are two great two-disc sets titled something like The Duke's Men, which feature mid-period small-group recordings. Lotta great stuff on there.

Lee G (Lee G), Thursday, 5 June 2003 15:14 (11 years ago) Permalink

Early Ellington: search what you can get in the 1927-1929 years. This is my favorite time period for early Ellington, the "Jungle Band". There's a big box set: 1924-1930, or individual volumes 1927-1928, 1928-1929, and many various re-packagings. If nothing else, search for something that contains "East St.Louis Toodle-Oo"

Later Ellington: search the "Queen's Suite", which contains the lovely piece, "Single Petal of a Rose". It's on a CD called "The Ellington Suites" on OJC

arch Ibog (arch Ibog), Thursday, 5 June 2003 15:16 (11 years ago) Permalink

The Best of Early Ellington, a single disc on Decca, is a terrific summary of the pre-Blanton years

vote three for The Blanton-Webster Years; I've been advised by people who know to avoid the new repackage of the same material in a cardboard case: "they fucked up the remaster" was his objection.

I really love The Far East Suite, it's the only thing I know from way later, obv I need to explore more

and I was beaten to recommending the Proper box, so I'll second that

M Matos (M Matos), Thursday, 5 June 2003 16:43 (11 years ago) Permalink

Jess, try Far East--seems like more your thing. Toop could easily have included parts of it on Ocean of Sound.

M Matos (M Matos), Thursday, 5 June 2003 16:44 (11 years ago) Permalink

I would like to just say this is a wondeful thread :-)

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Thursday, 5 June 2003 17:22 (11 years ago) Permalink

Wow, that Proper box looks great. I'll third the recommendation as I've got a lot of the same material in different form. I would happily re-buy it (and at this price) to have it on CD.

arch Ibog (arch Ibog), Thursday, 5 June 2003 17:26 (11 years ago) Permalink

'nother vote for "Far East Suite"

Jody Beth Rosen (Jody Beth Rosen), Thursday, 5 June 2003 17:28 (11 years ago) Permalink

I have more book suggestions having scanned the shelves last night. David Hadju's bio of Billy Strayhorn, Lush Life, is a great book in its own right, but it's very illuminating on Ellington. For even more illumination, Don George's Sweet Man is an amusing read if you can find a copy. George wrote the lyrics for some of Duke's tunes, most notably "I'm Beginning to See the Light." (Interesting trivia: an instrumental version of the tune is playing on the radio in the kitchen during the "Oracle" scene in the first Matrix movie.) Anyway, it's a personal memoir of Ellington, which in this case means detailed reminiscences about Duke's insatiable appetite for women, steaks, and the color powder blue, among other things.

Lee G (Lee G), Thursday, 5 June 2003 17:32 (11 years ago) Permalink

also find, if you can, Ralph Gleason's long tribute/obit from Rolling Stone. the classic quote, from memory, on junkie musicians: "I never did understand that. I'm a cunt man myself."

M Matos (M Matos), Thursday, 5 June 2003 17:45 (11 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...
I'm a little surprised by the high regard in which the Far East Suite is commonly held. I could only get myself to listen to it a couple times. Most of the time when I don't like a remotely canonical jazz recording, I can still sort of understand why it would be considered good. Kind of Blue and Point of Departure, for instance, both turn me off in large part because of my emotional reaction to them, and something about the tone colors used (more in the second case). But the Far East Suite sounded really kind of third rate to me. I'm sorry now that I didn't hang on to my library copy long enough to listen a few times, so I could say more now. Part of it may simply be that because of my heavy Arabic music listening, I am critical of the particular way Arabic elements are used here. (I know it says far east, but according to what I've read, it actually has more to do with Arabic music than with Indian. That's also what I hear.) Also the mixture of certain old school big band sounds, sounds that don't necessarily have to be use just because one is working with a big band, undermines the project for me.

Al Andalous (Al Andalous), Tuesday, 5 August 2003 13:20 (11 years ago) Permalink

The Blanton-Webster Years; I've been advised by people who know to avoid the new repackage of the same material in a cardboard case: "they fucked up the remaster" was his objection

I don't know - I have this and the remaster sounds fine to me, as good as you could expect for this period. I'm pretty sure that this is the same remaster that's in the Centennial edition.

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 5 August 2003 14:49 (11 years ago) Permalink

(The packaging on the other hand leaves something to be desired. The little cardboard sleeves don't really hold the CDs in place. I wish they'd just used standard jewel cases.)

o. nate (onate), Tuesday, 5 August 2003 14:55 (11 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...
I borrowed Money Jungle from the library, and I like it okay. I like "Caravan" a lot, or at least the begin. And I like "Money Jungle." It's still probably not something I would buy, but I don't think it's an album that needs any apologies.

Rockist_Scientist (rockist_scientist), Tuesday, 14 September 2004 21:22 (10 years ago) Permalink

Somehow, all of my dad's old 45s were stolen except the ones I borrowed, and fortunately, one of those was "The Mooch." It's still my favorite Duke Ellington song, a world within a song, really...

Pete Scholtes, Wednesday, 15 September 2004 03:55 (10 years ago) Permalink

Harlem Air Shaft or Ko Ko would be my faves, both on the Blanton-Webster Band comp

mentalist (mentalist), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 04:35 (10 years ago) Permalink

"jump for joy" is probably the most astonishingly perfect record i know. everything is in place; it's constantly infectious and exciting; it sounds so fresh; and the lyrics are a total hoot. superlatives actually demean this record, so i'll stop.

"chocolate shake" is v. close.

amateur!!!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 06:20 (10 years ago) Permalink

the way "jump for joy" ends is... oh my lord.

amateur!!!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 06:21 (10 years ago) Permalink

anyway, for those of you scared of jazz, these are pop records.

amateur!!!st (amateurist), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 06:22 (10 years ago) Permalink

Has anyone heard Sir Duke, performances of his pieces by Bill Ware (vibes) and Marc Ribot (gtr)? I think it's really beautiful but I haven't heard that much 'real' DE.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 06:26 (10 years ago) Permalink

I absolutely love Money Jungle, I don't get the "jamming" comment. To me it sounded like they were at each other's throats. And yeah "Solitude" is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever herad.

As for Far East Suite...it's absolutely beautiful. Can't think of anything else to say.

djdee2005 (djdee2005), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 06:56 (10 years ago) Permalink

anyway, for those of you scared of jazz, these are pop records.

Indeed. They are catchy and fill o hooks. With early to mid Ellington, due to recording technology, most songs were only around 3 minutes long. The classic Ellington / Strayhorn number Take The A Train packs a whole musical narrative in less than 3 minutes and has a great fadeout ending.

mentalist (mentalist), Wednesday, 15 September 2004 11:58 (10 years ago) Permalink

3 years pass...

I am listening to Jungle Nights in Harlem and you should too.

Oilyrags, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:24 (7 years ago) Permalink

I really love Far East Suite
and the shite with Coleman Hawkins.

If you don't like it, you're racist.

our work is never over, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:28 (7 years ago) Permalink

underrated record is 'side by side' w/ johnny hodges
sweets edison KILLS IT on trumpet

deej, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:29 (7 years ago) Permalink

Must look into that then!
I love those underrated ones.

our work is never over, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:33 (7 years ago) Permalink

Jubilee Stomp is an acceptable substitute if Jungle Nights in Harlem is not available.

Oilyrags, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:40 (7 years ago) Permalink

On the Money Jungle tip, here's Ellington playing Fleurette Africain solo

Øystein, Wednesday, 6 November 2013 13:26 (1 year ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

reading the teachout book now -- lots of good stuff in it for sure, but yeah, he does have some fairly wacky ideas about ellington's music and influence. and he gets pretty judgy mcjudgerson about ellington's personal life.

tylerw, Friday, 3 January 2014 18:27 (1 year ago) Permalink

Spoiler alert -- You might not want to read the below if you're gonna see "American Hustle"...

In a pivotal scene in "American Hustle," Christian Bale's character is drawn to Amy Adams' character and her charm bracelet depicting Duke Ellington.

During a lavish pool party, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) locks eyes with Sydney Prosser (Adams) from across the room. Rosenfeld approaches Prosser and as she reaches for a plate of vegetables, he grabs her arm.

"Is that Duke Ellington on your bracelet?" Rosenfeld asks.

"As a matter of fact it is. He died this year, ya know?" Prosser responds.

"I know. I doubt anyone else here knows or cares about it," he said.

"Well, I care about it. He's saved my life many times," she said.

"Mine too. Which one?"

"Jeep's Blues," she said.

Rosenfeld, a con man, then invites Prosser to hear the album. The meeting sparks a partnership and romance that is key to the plot of the David O' Russell-directed film, which was released last week and is picking up a lot of awards season buzz.


curmudgeon, Friday, 3 January 2014 19:06 (1 year ago) Permalink

Ha, that was one of the few bright spots in the film for me.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 3 January 2014 19:13 (1 year ago) Permalink

Ethan Iverson has posted a pair of pieces on Teachout and his book on Do The Math:
An interview with Teachout
Reverential Gesture: "A personal celebration of Duke Ellington that disagrees with some of the musical analysis in Teachout's biography."

Øystein, Wednesday, 8 January 2014 16:36 (1 year ago) Permalink

thanks, those are both great

tylerw, Wednesday, 8 January 2014 18:24 (1 year ago) Permalink

Ellington is a huge yawning gulf in my listening. The only stuff I have in my iPod is Blues in Orbit, Money Jungle, and the 3CD box Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band. (I have Black, Brown & Beige and Newport 1956 on CD at home, too.) All of it's fantastic, of course, but I really have no idea where to go next. It's not like there's bad Ellington, I'm sure, but I wish his discography wasn't quite so massive, so I could get a grip on it with a four- or five-CD box or two.

Humorist (horse) (誤訳侮辱), Wednesday, 8 January 2014 18:27 (1 year ago) Permalink

this is actually the thing that got me way into ellington way back when: http://www.propermusic.com/product-details/Duke-Ellington-Masterpieces-1926-1949-4CD-10468
4 discs covering 1926-1949. i'm sure that because it's on a cheapo euro label, there might be better sounding versions of this material out there, but I really enjoy it.

tylerw, Wednesday, 8 January 2014 18:33 (1 year ago) Permalink

Pretty fascinating footage here:

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Thursday, 16 January 2014 23:36 (1 year ago) Permalink

if you're down with the blanton-webster band, then you might find a set like this useful for filling out your picture of ellington:

Early Ellington: The Complete Brunswick and Vocalion Recordings of Duke Ellington, 1926-1931

there's something about the sounds here. like, that people were doing that, then.

j., Thursday, 16 January 2014 23:53 (1 year ago) Permalink

I haven't heard that one, but I love The OKeh Ellington (an insanely-in-need-of-remastering CBS set from the early 90s). What you said about the sounds, that they're doing that then, it applies here. This must have blown so many minds back then -- I mean, it's blowing minds now, for fuck's sake.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 00:06 (1 year ago) Permalink

man that footage is fantastic. I love later Ellington a whole lot and I feel like watching that stuff develop really brings out its strengths

combination hair (underrated aerosmith bootlegs I have owned), Friday, 17 January 2014 00:07 (1 year ago) Permalink

sometimes i feel like he's too good. makes it hard to realize how amazing what they're doing is, because you're just awash in the pleasure of the sounds.

j., Friday, 17 January 2014 00:09 (1 year ago) Permalink

just getting into duke really, it's way more complex than i thought it would be

Ronnie James 乒乓 (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Friday, 17 January 2014 00:20 (1 year ago) Permalink

That Teachout interview upthread that Øystein posted, he actually makes a few good points, but fuck:

Ellington basically gave up on true large-scale composition after A Tone Parallel to Harlem. That’s the last time he tried to write a large-scale, self-contained, organically developed musical structure.

Not true: "The Degas Suite" (not broken into smaller parts, despite its title) from 1968 and "The River" from 1970.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 00:24 (1 year ago) Permalink

What albums are those on?

yes, i have seen the documentary (Jon Lewis), Friday, 17 January 2014 02:00 (1 year ago) Permalink

They're both on The Private Collection volume 5.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 02:02 (1 year ago) Permalink

Cool I've never had any idea which vols to get from that series.

"The Queen's Suite" is one of my favorite late Ellingtons.

He should have done a "Queens Suite" too...

yes, i have seen the documentary (Jon Lewis), Friday, 17 January 2014 02:16 (1 year ago) Permalink

Love The Queen's Suite!

The Vol. 5 dealie is definitely up there with the best late Ellington work. "The River" has an early incarnation of what would later become "Theme For Mahalia Jackson." One of my all-time favorite moments in his oeuvre (and not a dry eye in the house).

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 02:49 (1 year ago) Permalink

I actually went to a school named after Duke Ellington, and we played tons of Ellington stuff in jazz band, so I got a big early dose. I still feel though like his catalogue is just ridiculously overwhelming.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

Playing them and then playing like Basie and Neil Hefti charts and stuff (which are all great) you really get a sense of what a totally different level Ellington was operating on compositionally. Like other big band composers you get this tidy sense of melody, then the solos, then the sectional "solis" then back, but Ellington, even though it has some of that, idk it feels somewhere in between that and Stravinsky or something.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:22 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah it is overwhelming, but it's just great how you keep finding amazing stuff lurking in there. like this one i think i just heard this month from the late 40s:

tylerw, Friday, 17 January 2014 03:24 (1 year ago) Permalink

This is an (I think) underappreciated tune of his I always loved. It's actually a slightly different version of a tune he did for the Anatomy of a Murder soundtrack, but I like this version more:


signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:28 (1 year ago) Permalink

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:28 (1 year ago) Permalink

The Blanton-Webster Band set is an ideal starting point, but yeah, it's a pretty daunting discography.

But the guy never made a bad record, so you could just about blindly pick anything.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:31 (1 year ago) Permalink

i've said this before on ilm, maybe on this thread, but i was familiar with various things of ellington's for a long time, which i appreciated plenty, prior to him really clicking for me because of the blanton-webster set.

j., Friday, 17 January 2014 03:46 (1 year ago) Permalink

right I know the blanton-webster stuff pretty well, but there's so much else

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 03:58 (1 year ago) Permalink

The first thing I heard after the B-W set was The Far East Suite, which completely floored me. After that, I sought out all late 60s suites.

I used the Penguin Guide as a reference, but I was also taking a tutorial on Ellington in college at the time. Every piece that was played in class, I thought, "Wow, this is great...wow, THIS is great...shit, they're all great."

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 04:08 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah I like the far east suite

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 04:11 (1 year ago) Permalink

Latin American Suite and Afro-Eurasian Eclipse are nearly as good. "Brasilliance" on the former is just...I mean, what is this?

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Friday, 17 January 2014 04:18 (1 year ago) Permalink

if I had to get one ellington primer, you guys would suggest Blanton-Webster? I saw there were a couple of different versions of the set on amazon, both with reviews questions their sound quality.

christmas candy bar (al leong), Friday, 17 January 2014 04:19 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah I'd go with that. I mean, you're going to have some "sound quality" issues on any issue, it's just the nature of the original recordings.

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 04:21 (1 year ago) Permalink

If you're going for that era, get Never No Lament, not the old RCA Bluebird set. Besides the shitty denoise-ing on the Bluebird set, those CDs were/are pretty susceptible to "disc rot."

The period after Blanton-Webster is good, too (sometimes I prefer it), but I've had to live with a Bluebird set analogous to the B-W Bluebird set. The Naxos Jazz Legends "Black, Brown and Beige" CD might be good, though.

bamcquern, Friday, 17 January 2014 05:09 (1 year ago) Permalink

i don't have any problems with the sound on the 'never no lament' set (the blanton-webster set i have)

it's 'warm'

j., Friday, 17 January 2014 05:13 (1 year ago) Permalink

yeah never no lament is the one I listen to so maybe I wasn't aware of the problems

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 05:25 (1 year ago) Permalink

one of the things I love about his compositions/arrangements is the way he really lets the countermelodies and harmodies compete with the "melody" in strength, so you don't really get the effect of a "melody" over "chords" but more like moving tonal clusters

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:44 (1 year ago) Permalink

like sometimes I don't even feel like there is a single line that sticks out as the melody in the group sections

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:46 (1 year ago) Permalink

that's a peculiarity he shares with Delius (I didn't think about it until I read that Percy Grainger quote where he was like "the greatest living composers are Delius and Ellington")

yes, i have seen the documentary (Jon Lewis), Friday, 17 January 2014 16:57 (1 year ago) Permalink

3 months pass...

Nice. Sting & Paul Simon did a benefit for the school earlier this year

curmudgeon, Wednesday, 30 April 2014 14:47 (10 months ago) Permalink

Would've loved to have seen that. I saw that trio about a month ago, and they were astounding. Shipp incorporated "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (which I took as a nod to his fellow Delawarean Clifford Brown), and Dickey put on one of the most sensitive and inspiring percussion performances I've seen in years.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Wednesday, 30 April 2014 14:55 (10 months ago) Permalink

Did you gasp yesterday when the guy announced the next album as Monkey Jungle!?! After the break he repeated the correct title several times.

Bee Traven Thousand (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 2 May 2014 02:04 (10 months ago) Permalink

3 weeks pass...

Very surprised not only that he was one of the last living Ellingtonians, but that he was the last living member of the Blanton-Webster band.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 27 May 2014 14:53 (10 months ago) Permalink

man, that guy had an interesting life... wonder if the documentary about him is any good?
this clip is something:

though i'll admit to never having been nuts about that song

tylerw, Tuesday, 27 May 2014 15:12 (10 months ago) Permalink

Thanks for posting that! Interesting arrangement, too -- different from what was released at the time.

It took me a while, but I grew to dig his voice. The first Ellington piece I (knowingly) heard was "You, You Darlin'" off the Blanton-Webster band set. I thought his singing was square and corny, but eventually heard how it worked with the rest of the orchestra. I can't imagine "Flamingo" any other way -- even Mingus' version (which is great) feels like something's missing without Jeffries.

Montgomery Burns' Jazz (Tarfumes The Escape Goat), Tuesday, 27 May 2014 15:19 (10 months ago) Permalink

9 months pass...

The poster Ben Williams of 11 years ago up-thread is eternally otm, some of the greatest music ever created on there.

xelab, Sunday, 1 March 2015 22:30 (4 weeks ago) Permalink

2 weeks pass...

Lately I cannot stop playing Ellington Uptown, The Far East Suite + Such Sweet Thunder. What a player/artist/arranger, he even makes Mingus sound like a mere gifted acolyte.

xelab, Friday, 20 March 2015 23:23 (1 week ago) Permalink

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