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Ellington Night at the Roberts House!

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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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2 Responses to Ellington Night at the Roberts House!

  1. MarkB says:

    My first Ellington was “Indigos”, acquired as an LP back in the 1980s. It was a big disappointment. The sound was flat and dull. The musicians played with no life whatsoever. After many attempts at enjoyment it went permanently to the basement. Honestly, it kept me from buying any more Ellington. Then one day in the early 2000s (when most CDs sounded really bad) a friend mentioned he had found a CD that was good to listen to. It turned out to be “Indigos”. And indeed it was good. Looking at the cover I said “I think I have this one”. A trip to the basement got the two versions together and indeed the CD was good. The first time we had ever found a CD that honestly sounded better than LP. Well, my friend started scouring the used record stores and found another copy. It was fabulous – WAY better than the CD. Obviously an earlier-generation pressing than mine, and a prime example of how recordings can be absolutely ruined. This good copy turned us into Ellington fans and we both now have decent collections, including “Indigos” in 96/24 and of course “For Duke”.

  2. Mike Rubey says:

    I once had a friend who was a jazz drummer from St. Louis. He was taught by a guy named Joe Charles who was a student of Philly Joe Jones. My friend has since slid off into the abyss, bless him. But he had a talent for coming up with incredibly profound statements on the natch. One time while we were walking through the woods he just blurted out: “The sum total of everything we miss in each moment all ads up to be ‘The Big Secret’, in other words there ain’t no big secret”. About the Ellington band this guy said…..”They were the ones, the best band that ever existed”.

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