Duke Ellington Live in '58 Jazz Icons
Duke Ellington's 80-minute concert at Amsterdam's Concertgebouw was filmed in black & white for television and recorded for radio. At this point in his career, Ellington had quite a following, aided by his best-selling record of the band's sensational appearance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. The Swing Era had come and gone, but his band continued to explode. His soloists were the best around, especially after the return of altoist Johnny Hodges to the fold, and his piano playing brought rhythmic joy to each performance.
Ray Nance is featured on trumpet and violin, dishing it out with ample character. He and trombonist Quentin "Butter" Jackson open the program with natural growls and muted voices that purr creatively. Clark Terry follows with a swinging trumpet feature on "Harlem Air Shaft. The large audience looks as if they want to jump up and jitterbug at their seats.
As Harry Carney closes his extended feature on "Sophisticated Lady, the circular breathing that he employs to sustain long notes catches the camera's eye. Just when you think the piece is coming to a close, Ellington rambles on at the piano and Carney continues to hold that note. It's quite a thrill, and the video captures every detail.
Jimmy Hamilton interprets "My Funny Valentine on clarinet with a solo by trombonist Jackson, and then the bandleader shows his love for the piano with a feature on "Kinda Dukish. This segues into a full band adventure with "Rockin' in Rhythm," featuring lead trumpeter Cat Anderson's high squeals.
The album's extensive liner notes, by Patricia Willard, reveal that the footage seen here of "Jack the Bear and "You Better Know It were "believed lost and "hadn't been seen since the original concert. The first features bassist Jimmy Woode and the second features vocalist Ozzie Bailey with an assist from tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves. Both tracks pale in comparison to what comes next. Johnny Hodges delivers two in a row with the band in support, providing a clear reminder of the pure Ellington sound in all its glory.
The second set opens with an extended drum solo and features Sam Woodyard clear and crisp. The cameras get it all, as the drummer, perched behind his two bass drums, swings the band "madly. He follows up with another extended solo that takes big band drumming over the top.
Just about everybody gets into the spotlight on Ellington's 13-song medley of his popular songs. By this time in the band's life span, these hits had become highly recognizable and in demand. Nevertheless, they're each presented here fresh and alive with plenty of variety from one number to the next. Ray Nance, who sings several of the medley's songs, proves that he was possibly the band's best vocalist through all those years.
The concert closes with Duke's extended arrangement of "Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue, the piece which, thanks to 27 smoldering, irresistibly swinging choruses by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves capped by Cat Anderson's stratospheric wailing, had literally ignited an internationally-publicized riot at Newport. Since Gonsalves and the band packed a powerful punch into every note, no one left the concert hall disappointed.
Tracks: Black and Tan Fantasy / Creole Love Call/The Mooch; Harlem Air Shaft; Sophisticated Lady; My Funny Valentine; Kinda Dukish / Rockin' in Rhythm; Mr. Gentle and Mr. Cool; Jack the Bear; You Better Know It; All Of Me; Things Ain't What They Used To Be; Hi-Fi-Fo-Fum; Ellington Medley: (Sophisticated Lady / Don't Get Around Much Anymore / Do Nothing 'Til You Hear From Me / Don't You Know I Care / In a Sentimental Mood / Mood Indigo / I'm Beginning to See the Light / Caravan / I Got it Bad and That Ain't Good / It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing) / (In My) Solitude / I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart / Don't Get Around Much Anymore); Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue.
Personnel: Duke Ellington: piano; Jimmy Woode: double bass; Sam Woodyard: drums; Johnny Hodges: alto saxophone; Russell Procope: alto saxophone, clarinet; Paul Gonsalves: tenor saxophone; Jimmy Hamilton: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Harry Carney: baritone saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet; William "Cat Anderson, Harold "Shorty Baker, Clark Terry: trumpet; Ray Nance: trumpet, violin, vocal; Quentin "Butter Jackson, Britt Woodman: trombone; John Sanders: valve trombone; Ozzie Bailey: vocal.
Production Notes: 80 minutes. Recorded November 2, 1958 at Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Extras: rare photographs, memorabilia collage.