The 29th in Classics' reissuance of Duke Ellington's recordings as a leader (which unfortunately skips most alternate takes) features his orchestra shortly after the recording ban of 1942-44 had finally ended. In addition to several vocal numbers for Joya Sherrill (including the hit "I'm Beginning to See the Light"), Al Hibbler and Kay Davis, there are features for trombonist Lawrence Brown ("Blue Cellophane") and altoist Johnny Hodges ("Mood to Be Wooed"), the original four-part studio version of "Black, Brown and Beige" (which totals 18 minutes), a four-song session headed by drummer Sonny Greer that features altoist Otto Hardwick, trumpeter Taft Jordan and clarinetist Barney Bigard (despite what it says in the liner notes, the pianist is the obscure Duke Brooks and not Duke Ellington) and the early V-disc version of "The Perfume Suite." Excellent music from an underrated edition of the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
The first 13 selections on this CD complete the reissue of the studio recordings of the classic 1939-1942 Duke Ellington & His Orchestra. Among the more notable selections are "Perdido," "The 'C' Jam Blues," "What Am I Here For," "Main Stem," and "Johnny Come Lately." The other nine numbers are much rarer than those Victor records, for they are V-discs cut during the recording strike of 1942-1944, primarily remakes of earlier Ellington hits. Although not quite essential (the Victors are easily available domestically), this set nevertheless has plenty of memorable performances by Ellington's World War II band.
During the mid-'40s Coleman Hawkins was hitting another peak, seasoned by many years in big bands both in the States and Europe. He wasn't out of fashion during those early bop years, either, as he often played with the music's young Turks; their sound was a mix of the big band era's refined combo swing and bop's new, angular energy. This Classics disc captures some of the tenor great's best sides from the period, including an early bop milestone featuring Dizzy Gillespie and Don Byas ("Disorder at the Border") and tracks with Ben Webster and a variety of small bands graced by the likes of Byas, Teddy Wilson, Harry Carney, and Cozy Cole. Essential listening.
Recording Date: January 18, 1944 - November 8, 1944.
The first popular jazz singer to move audiences with the intense, personal feeling of classic blues, Billie Holiday changed the art of American pop vocals forever. More than a half-century after her death, it's difficult to believe that prior to her emergence, jazz and pop singers were tied to the Tin Pan Alley tradition and rarely personalized their songs; only blues singers like Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey actually gave the impression they had lived through what they were singing. Billie Holiday's highly stylized reading of this blues tradition revolutionized traditional pop, ripping the decades-long tradition of song plugging in two by refusing to compromise her artistry for either the song or the band…