Duke Ellington

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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

Damnit hes prolific.
I havn't heard any of this.

our work is never over, Monday, 21 January 2008 03:47 (7 years ago) Permalink

Jungle Nights and Jubilee Stomp are early stuff. On Bluebird, nice and cheap and very hard swinging and excellent.

Oilyrags, Monday, 21 January 2008 04:26 (7 years ago) Permalink

6 months pass...

I am really enjoying The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, one of Ellington's last albums. I know it's supposed to be African-influenced -- and it is -- but it sounds even more rock-influenced, to me. Dark, thumping and rhythmic. Very unlike what I expect of Ellington (OTOH, I'm not all that familiar with his bread-and-butter big band work). Anyway, great disc. (n.1).

(n.1) I did cringe at the corny spoken-word opening of the album, tho. Minor quibble, I guess.

Daniel, Esq., Tuesday, 5 August 2008 10:55 (6 years ago) Permalink

haha, i LOVE that spoken word intro.
as has been noted in this thread, there's a ton of later period (60s-70s) Ellington that is amazingly good. One I didn't see mentioned is the piano/bass album with Ray Brown called This One's For Blanton. Sort of an album length sequel to the duets Duke did with Blanton way back when. The New Orleans Suite (Hodges' last album, I think) has some great moments as well.

tylerw, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 13:58 (6 years ago) Permalink

I have this and the remaster sounds fine to me, as good as you could expect for this period

I've kind of changed my mind on this. I think they did kind of screw it up - though it's still listenable if you turn the treble down a couple of notches on your stereo.

o. nate, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 16:07 (6 years ago) Permalink

yeah, i think maybe the first disc of the B|W Band comp is kind of dodgy, esp. on headphones. I've got an old double LP with a lot of the same stuff and it sounds better to me, even on my crappy turntable. That said, those recordings would be great recorded on a cell phone. goddam, some of it is unbelievably good.

tylerw, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 17:12 (6 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

I am really enjoying The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse


"Didjeridoo" is quickly becoming a tune I feel really gypped that I never got to play with my jazz combo in college

TOMBOT, Friday, 24 October 2008 07:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

emusic subscribers who don't have this record, you have wasted a month.

TOMBOT, Friday, 24 October 2008 07:15 (6 years ago) Permalink

Tom, you should post here too:
Ellington as pianist

Matos DJs on Wednesdays here and plays something from The Far East Suite almost every week.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Friday, 24 October 2008 08:35 (6 years ago) Permalink

1 month passes...

I've been listening to The Far East Suite pretty much nonstop, with a couple of plays of The Seattle Concert thrown in. Sound is rough, as it's a 1952 show (and Ellington's first LP as such), but really sweet. Clark Terry is really nice on "Perdido."

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Wednesday, 10 December 2008 00:02 (6 years ago) Permalink

I should say the album is really sweet, not the rough sound.

If Timi Yuro would be still alive, most other singers could shut up, Wednesday, 10 December 2008 00:03 (6 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...

Duke Ellington becomes first African-American on U.S. coin

Jazzbo, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 14:59 (6 years ago) Permalink

this is great -


Tracer Hand, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 15:40 (6 years ago) Permalink

Eee, that does look good. Also expensive.

tylerw, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 16:46 (6 years ago) Permalink

Jazz man is first African-American to solo on U.S. circulating coin

double bird strike (gabbneb), Tuesday, 24 February 2009 16:49 (6 years ago) Permalink

I've been saying for years we need to get politicians off our money and artists on. Nice work, DC! We could get off to no better start.

Oilyrags, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 16:53 (6 years ago) Permalink


Oh god, the comments.

"I looked up Duke Ellington"

Wow. Says it all, really.

Oilyrags, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 17:06 (6 years ago) Permalink

[6] | snoopydog

Who is Duke Ellington and why should I care about him? Are there any other individuals on the quarters that I missed? Usually it's some stupid mountain or some wild life from the state. Who's Duke Ellington? Was he the architect of DC? I thought that guy was French. Ellington does not sound French to me.

deej da 5'9 (deej), Tuesday, 24 February 2009 17:10 (6 years ago) Permalink

I realize that DC isn't exactly the center of intellectualism but really, a piano player who likes white suits?

Øystein, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 17:47 (6 years ago) Permalink

This is why I have instituted a strict "DO NOT READ COMMENTS ON INTERNET" policy. Talk about douchebags.

tylerw, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 17:59 (6 years ago) Permalink

a funny thing to post on an Internet message board, yeah, but I'm talking about newspaper comments, etc.

tylerw, Tuesday, 24 February 2009 18:00 (6 years 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 (11 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 (11 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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