Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Musicraft recordings of 1946
bukhtan | Chicago, Illinois, USA | 07/21/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"These recordings were made in late 1946 for the Musicraft label, a small outfit started up to allow greater artistic latitude to the performers than they might receive from popular recording companies. Duke himself was vested in Musicraft and, unfortunately, lost money in the venture. Among the other musicians recording for the company were Dizzy Gillespie, whose Musicraft sides are, to my ears, among the best small ensemble jazz ever produced.
Duke and Strayhorn's recordings here are a mixed bag, involving older compositions such as "Diminuendo in Blue" (in an arrangement very closely followed at Newport in 1956), pop numbers such as the charming "Tulip or Turnip", with a typically affecting comic vocal and trumpet solo by Ray Nance, and the romantic drag "It shouldn't happen to a dream" with a vocal by Al Hibbler, somewhat redeemed by Johnny Hodges' solo. More remarkable are the elaborate scorings and solos on "Sultry Sunset", "Magenta Haze" etc. Most ambitious is "Jam-a-ditty", from the so-called "Tonal Group", a set of complex pieces that somewhat anticipate some of Kenton's excursions. Opinons may differ as to how successfully Ellington & Strayhorn brought these off.
Many of these pieces were also recorded, around the same time, for the Capitol Transcriptions (including the other parts of the "Tonal Group"). These have been made available on CD by the Hindsight label; I'm not sure how available they are at the moment.
These recordings have been remastered by Jack Towers, who recorded the 1940 dance date at Fargo for posterity. Unfortunately, all of Jack Towers' efforts could not make a silk purse from workmanlike canvas; the sound quality of these sessions was not up to that attained by the Victor, Decca & Columbia studios. Nonetheless, those accustomed to pre-bop jazz shouldn't be much bothered by the limited-fi on these tracks. Liner notes are by Jerry Valburn."
The Last Hurrah...for a while
jive rhapsodist | NYC, NY United States | 05/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In My Humble Opinion, this is Duke's last consistently good series of recordings until 1956. Ellington Uptown and Piano Reflections, and a few things here and there (the 1948 Cornell Concert, The Clothed Woman, N.Y.City Blues) being exceptions - bright spots among the gloom. But the problem with these recordings is that they've passed from hand to hand on cheap, dim reissues. That is why you must grab this one! Happy-Go-Lucky-Local is worth the price alone - one of Duke and the Orchestra's greatest recordings. Funky, swinging, loping in that way that only the Ellington band can lope, brilliantly anchored by Oscar Pettiford. Jam-A-Ditty is a remarkable piece of writing, looking back to 1938's Battle Of Swing. Overture To A Jam Session is one of Strayhorn's most ambitious - listen to it next to Stravinsky's Ebony Concerto and wonder who was listening to whom...The Hodges ballads are beautifully played but a little calculated for my taste. And I liked Mary Lou Williams' arrangement of Blue Skies better before it became Trumpets No End (hear the incredible May 21,1944 Hurricane broadcast...), but it's still fun here. Anyway, this ain't the 1940 band, that's clear, but if you love Ellington's music you should still get this disc!"