It seems that nowadays every day is national something or some other special day. I wonder if I could use the word day more in one sentence! Anyway, I declared it Duke Ellington Night at my house the other night. I got out the three LPs seen in the picture and sat down to enjoy. Man oh man, what great music! I’m in the middle of reviewing the DS Audio Optical Cartridge, and I wanted to forget about reviewing for an evening and just enjoy fine music.
The first LP I listened to wasn’t really Ellington, but it was the LP that started me down the road to loving Ellington music. In 1978, I was just discovering Jazz other than Pete Fountain, to whom my Dad had listened. I was into all things audio, and if someone told me a certain LP had really great sound, I bought it. Most of these LPs had either bad music or bad performances or both. The LP released by M&K Realtime titled was different, though. Bill Berry and his Ellington All-Stars did a fantastic job of playing some of Ellington’s most well known tunes. Heck, there were a few songs this kid who only listened to rock music had even heard. I didn’t only like the music; I love the power of the big band. I was hooked; I now own untold numbers of Ellington LPs and CDs.
For Duke sounded different from the other two, Masterpieces and Indigos probably as much from when they were released as for the fact that it’s not actually Ellington’s band. For Duke was released in 1978, Masterpieces in 1951 and Indigos in 1958. The renditions of Ellington’s songs of For Duke are much more lively and energetic than the other two LPs, but to be honest, some of Ellington’s own recordings sound this way. This is a great LP to start off the evening.
Then I listened to Masterpieces by Ellington and his orchestra. This album falls right in the middle of the other two in mood and sound, and it’s a mono recording. It consists – as the name implies – of one great song after another. It has a great big band sound, but is somewhat richer and fuller sounding than For Duke. It also has one of the most beautiful recordings of “Mood Indigo” I have heard. If I could only have one Ellington recording, this might be it, but I hope I never have to make that choice.
Indigos was the last LP I listened to that night. This is the most soulful and most emotionally involving of the three. It has such rich textures and harmonics; I’m talking about the music. The purpose of this night was not to think like a reviewer. I just wanted to submerse myself in the beauty of Ellington’s music. These three LPs surely helped me accomplish this.
Copy editor: Laurence A. Borden
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