November 12, 2004

The latest in Duke Ellington CDs.

My wonderful colleague Stewart Macaulay sends out advice about buying Duke Ellington records to the faculty email list here at the University of Wisconsin Law School. I keep telling him he should start a blog for this sort of thing. But since he hasn't, I asked if I could reprint his email here. He said yes. So here's the latest missive from Prof. Macaulay:
Several people have asked that I keep you up to date on Duke Ellington CDs. If you couldn't care less, stop reading now.

There is a brand new never before issued release on the Danish Storyville label called "The Jaywalker." These are recordings from 1966-67 and part of the collection of stuff that Mercer Ellington gave to Danish radio. Some of the cuts are things that appeared on other CDs such as "Rue Bleu,"" Chromatic Love Affair" and Billy Strayhorn's "Blood Count." It also includes music for the play "The Jaywalker," a religious allegory "about the boy Mac (Mac meaning Son of) trying to have the traffic on the highway stopped so that people living on either side of the road could cross freely." I think the music is better than the concept for the play.

At the other extreme, there is the Bluebird release called "The Centennial Collection: Duke Ellington," which goes back to the original "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "East St. Louis Toodle-O." But it also has such classics as "Ko Ko" and "Concerto for Cootie" (which later became "Do Nothing 'Till You Hear It From Me."). It includes 7 previously unissued tracks from 1940s radio broadcasts. Also included in a DVD with films of the Ellington orchestra playing.

Finally, there is one that many of you might like. It is "Duke Ellington's Jazz Violin Session." It is on Wounded Bird Records WOU 1688. (It originally was released in 1976 on Atlantic). It feaures Svend Asmussen on viola and Stephane Grappelli and Ray Nance on violins. The tunes are classic Ellington, such as "In a Sentimental Mood," "Don't Get Around Much Any More," "Day Dream" and "Cotton Tail." This music was recorded in 1963 for Reprise, the then new label formed by Frank Sinatra when he decided to eliminate all the middle men and make off with more of the money from recording. He engaged Ellington as his jazz A & R man. Warner Brothers bought Reprise and didn't release much of what Ellington had recorded. Of course, the mid-1960s was a time when people weren't listening to much jazz. I have found myself putting this one on over and over. The strings playing this music are different and nice.

I got all of these from Tower records on line. ( I assume that they are available elsewhere as well. The nice thing about Tower is that you can switch to recent releases in order without having to go through everything as you do on

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