Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|and Orchestra Duke Ellington|
At Basin Street East: Duke Ellington and Orchestra
Genres: Jazz, Pop
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Duke in NY in the 60s; and a comment on Lush Life
Steven J. Bissell | Denver, CO USA | 02/12/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Duke Ellington experienced a rebirth of his popularity in the 1960s after a success at the Newport Jazz Festival. He took his band back on the grueling tour around the country, only rarely to play New York. This recording was done live at Basin Street East, as Duke's old stomping grounds, The Cotton Club, wasn't doing much at this time. I have no idea why this CD is so hard to find other than it was produced by Music and Arts Programs of American, Inc. rather than a regular record label. But, but all means get your hands on it--it swings. The concert was broadcast live at the time and the recording equipment was top notch. What you have here is one of the best Ellington albums I've ever heard. You get a real feeling for what an Ellington concert would have been like.
Between pieces William B. Williams, a white disc-jocky, "banters" with Duke about the music. This got on my nervers and Williams seems, to me, pretty condescending at times. . .at one point he acknowledges the Duke as "quite a talent" as an arranger. There is also an awards ceremony in the middle of the album where the Duke is presented with awards from Jazz Magazine.
Strayhorn had been composing and arranging with Duke for nearly 30 years at that point and it is it is the single solo by Billy Strayhorn I wanted to comment on. Many of the tunes on the disc are Strayhorn originals, "Take the 'A' Train," "Passion Flower" and on and on. "Lush Life" is one that was never associated with Duke Ellington directly. "Lush Life" was first composed in 1933, about 7 years before Strayhorn ever met Duke. During their long association Strayhorn often played the tune with the small Ellington groups, but the Ellington big band never, to my knowledge, recorded it. There is a report that it was on a 1949 Carnagie Hall recording, but I've never tracked that recording down. Ellington liked the tune, but didn't see how it could be arranged to meet his musical perspective. In this era of Ellingtonian you often see Ellington tribute albums and CDs with "Lush Life" on it. It is interesting that a tune that was not composed or played by Ellington is so closely associated with him. On this disc, made only a few years before Strayhorn's death from cancer, it is a sad solo by Strayhorn without the band that we hear.
I often wonder what "Lush Life" would have been like had Ellington chosen to put his skills as an arranger to it. Strayhorn himself was very critical of recordings of the piece, it is said he called Nat Cole and swore at him when he heard Cole's version. Strayhorn himself recorded it a few times and the piece was recorded by John Coltrane a dozen times. Whatever the case, there are two reasons to get this disc; it is one of the best live Ellington swing albums every recorded and it has probably the last time Strayhorn recorded "Lush Life," it doesn't get much better than that."