Tuesday, April 29, 2014

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

[LPs. Photograph by Michael Leddy.]

I bought my first Ellington LP when I was in college: This One’s for Blanton, piano-bass duets with Ray Brown. I had read that Ellington’s piano style had influenced Thelonious Monk. That made me curious.

But where should you start? (And you should, really.) The answer, I think, is still The Great Paris Concert, now a bunch of files, and a ridiculously good buy from the usual sources.

Ellington plays all day today at WKCR.

Related reading
All OCA Duke Ellington posts (Pinboard)

comments: 4

Adair said...

My first Ellington piece, the one that hooked me forever, was "Reminiscing in Tempo" on a Columbia lp that my dad had, a compilation titled Blue Light: Jazz For That Relaxed Mood by Duke Ellington. It still enthralls me.

There is no wrong place to start listening to Ellington. While I am not as fond of the Paul Goncalves era, I still cannot think of any weak recordings. I even love the Musicraft and Capitol recordings, which are generally seen as products of a down period in the life of the band, but I believe they are underrated. For newcomers to the marvelous world of Ellington, I'd recommend the great Webster-Blanton collection from RCA, with its exquisite recordings of "Chelsea Bridge," "Flamingo," and "Rain Check."

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, but the RCA sound quality is terrible. (Years ago I wrote to one of the people involved and received a revealing reply. Suffice it to say that he was grieved, and he explained that RCA just didn’t care enough to pay for proper remastering.) I’m hoping that Mosaic brings out a Blanton-Webster set. Given their recent Ellington sets, that looks like a logical next step. In the meantime, how about Fargo? :)

Adair said...

That's depressing. A true dismissal of a great American composer. It is as if Deutsche Grammophon said they didn't care about Beethoven. I need some time to digest this...

I have to say to my embarrassment that I didn't notice the poor remastering and assumed the originals themselves were not in great shape---or else the music was so strong it just reached me through the crackly sounds. Yes, a Mosaic set of this Ellington phase would be astonishing. They actually did a set of the complete Capitol recordings, although I still go back to the Capitol lps, which have a "hi-fi" reverb that I like, perversely perhaps, and which is not heard on the Mosaic cd's, making them sound, to me, somewhat flat.

Oh, yeah, the Fargo concert---absolutely! The band was cookin'!

Michael Leddy said...

If you can compare to LPs (the French ones), you’ll hear the difference. CBS/Sony made a similar mess of The Hot Fives and Hot Sevens. Thank goodness for JSP, Proper Records, Mosaic, and all labels that honor old recordings.