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|Other discs that do not fit the chronology|
|Part 1||........||1924 - 1942|
|Part 2||........||1943 - 1956|
|Part 3||........||1956 - 1974|
|Part 4||........||1956 - 1974|
|Small group sessions|
This list offers a brief description of slightly more than 100 compact discs by Duke Ellington. It does not intend or pretend to name all Ellington recordings that exist or have existed on CD, the number of which has been estimated at more than 1,000. The goal of this list is to convey some sense of where each release stands in relation to the vast body of Ellington's recorded work. For that reason, it is limited to releases with which I have some familiarity, and the opinions expressed are mostly my own.
The recordings in this list may or may not be currently available. Some of the recordings in the list may be available now, but with a different title, different label, or different catalog number than is given here.
Most of the recordings in this list have been issued in the USA. However, a number of European and Japanese imports are included. I have attempted to label imports as such, but it is not always possible to distinguish them from domestic releases.
This introductory page lists a few releases that give some sense of the broad range of Ellington's work. The main list begins on the next page.
Add Your Comments!
I'd like to add some other people's views on Ellington recordings. If you'd like to share a mini-review with other readers, just email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, I'll be the final judge of what gets added to the Duke on Disc pages, and all submissions will be subject to standard editing.
Because Ellington's recordings stretch over such a great span of time, and because those recordings are owned by a bewildering array of different record labels, there are no truly comprehensive collections available. However, there are two that cover a major portion of his career and present his music with some sense of perspective.
Reminiscing in Tempo (Columbia CK 48654) includes recordings from 1928 to 1960, but nothing composed after 1947. The title track alone is worth the price. Recorded in 1935, this piece is one of Duke's first attempts at extended-length composition, and was originally released on both sides of two 78 RPM records. Includes some other material from the 1930s that can be hard to find elsewhere.
A two-CD set, Beyond Category, the Musical Genius of Duke Ellington (Smithsonian Institution Press/RCA Special Products DMC2/DMK2-1141) covers the years 1927-1967. This companion to the Smithsonian exhibition of the same name includes a generous sampling of early hits, notable masterpieces from Duke's peak around 1940, and representative selections from his later, longer works. It is easy to argue with some of the selections, but difficult to imagine a better overall introduction to Ellington. Extensive notes by John Hasse are included. By itself, or in combination with Reminiscing in Tempo, this set provides an excellent introduction to Ellington's life work.
Out of Time, Discs that Fit Nowhere Else
A few releases do not fit the loosely chronological organization of this list, and so are collected here.
BMG has issued two budget-priced CDs, respectively titled Duke Ellington: Greatest Hits (RCA Victor 090206-68488-2) and More Greatest Hits (RCA Victor 09026-68497-2). Each contains a generous selection of tracks (a few of which do not belong), sparse and inaccurate notes, and plenty of musical pleasure. The bulk of each disc is devoted to the 1940s, but each contains at least one track from the late 20s and one from the 60s. These discs are not a bad way for a newcomer to begin getting to know the magic of Duke Ellington.
Sony has released a similar collection: This Is Jazz 7: Duke Ellington (Columbia Legacy CK 64617). In this case, eight of twelve tracks come from the 1950s, with the rest evenly divided between the 20s and 30s. More thoughtfully selected and somewhat better documented than the BMG discs, this CD works well as a primer-level introduction to Ellington's music.
Duke Ellington and Friends: Compact Jazz (Verve 833 291-2) This is not really an Ellington disc. Duke never recorded for Verve, other than in a duet session with Johnny Hodges and a few outings when his band accompanied Ella Fitzgerald. He appears once with Hodges and twice with Ella on this disc, but the other eight tracks feature members and alumni of the band. This disc demonstrates that Duke's presence was not always necessary for very Ellingtonian moments to occur, but some tracks also show that his star players did not always turn in their best work when they were out of the Ellington fold.
The Jazz Collector Edition (LaserLight 15 710) An odd assortment. This disc has an RCA recording of the Perfume Suite from 1945, which has been processed for fake stereo, combined with a handful of good but typical concert tracks from 1966 and 1967, and three airchecks of fair quality from 1940.
The Duke Ellington Collection (Deja Vu 5014-2) An excellent example of the perils of off-label releases, this shovelware CD combines live tracks, circa 1960, with tinny versions of recordings from the 1920s. Some tracks are incorrectly identified. Apparently, a concert medley of early hits has been chopped apart and dispersed across the disc, in the wrong order. Eminently avoidable, but still, the music is Ellington's.
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