The biggest change for the Duke Ellington Orchestra in the relatively brief period covered by this CD is that on "Little Posey," Jimmy Blanton became the band's new bassist, taking over for Billy Taylor. While Taylor was a fine supportive player, Blanton was the first great soloist on his instrument and an innovative player who was a decade ahead of his time. This CD in Classics' extensive Duke Ellington chronological series, as usual, has all of the master takes from both Ellington's big band and the small groups led by his sidemen (trumpeter Cootie Williams and altoist Johnny Hodges), but skips over the valuable alternate takes. Among the most memorable selections are the spirited "I'm Checkin' Out, Goo'm Bye," "Black Beauty," "The Sergeant Was Shy," two versions of "Grievin'," "Little Posey," and "Tootin' Through the Roof" (which has a brief trumpet battle by Cootie Williams and Rex Stewart).
1933 found Duke Ellington going overseas for the first time, and the four songs (and a short interview) that he recorded in London are on this CD. Otherwise things stayed pretty consistent with no major personnel change (Otto Hardwick rejoined the band), Ivie Anderson proving to be a strong asset with her vocals, and such gems as "Merry Go Round," "Sophisticated Lady," "Drop Me Off in Harlem," and "I'm Satisfied" offering further proof that Ellington was the master of the three-minute record, making every bar count. As usual with the Classics series, all of the master takes are included on this CD (repeating songs if they were recorded on different days) but leaving off the alternate takes.
The main change for the Duke Ellington Orchestra during this period was that the increasingly unreliable Bubber Miley (an alcoholic) was fired by Ellington in January 1929 and quickly replaced by Cootie Williams. Otherwise, the personnel was stable, featuring trombonist Joe Tricky Sam Nanton, altoist Johnny Hodges, and clarinetist Barney Bigard as key soloists along with trumpeters Miley, Arthur Whetsol, and Freddie Jenkins. Most of the selections from this era border on the classic, with highlights including Miley's spot on "Bandanna Babies," "I Must Have That Man," "Harlemania," and a two-part version of "Tiger Rag."
During 1928, the main stars of Duke Ellington's orchestra (in addition to the leader/pianist/composer/arranger) were trumpeter Bubber Miley, trombonist Joe Tricky Sam Nanton, clarinetist Barney Bigard, and (starting in June) altoist Johnny Hodges. All of the master takes (including ones for different labels) are being reissued in the Classics series. This disc is highlighted by "Black Beauty" (particularly Ellington's solo piano version), the heated "Hot and Bothered" (featuring guest guitarist Lonnie Johnson and singer Baby Cox), "Louisiana," and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love." Two songs feature singer Ozie Ware backed by a small combo taken from Ellington's big band. This CD has plenty of timeless classics, most of which are also available in other reissue programs.
As usual with the Classics series, the music on this CD is released complete and in chronological order, covering the music originally released by several record labels but without including alternate takes. In the case of Duke Ellington, because he would frequently record the same song slightly rearranged on several occasions for different companies, there are multiple versions of some titles on this CD, but the alternate versions that he made for the labels have been left out. During the very important period covered by this disc, the Duke Ellington Orchestra (having recently found their sound) was hired by the Cotton Club as the house band and they hit the big time…
Reissue with latest 2014 DSD remastering. Comes with liner notes. Jazz at the Plaza Vol. II is a live album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded in 1958 at a party for Columbia Records and released on the label in 1973. The Miles Davis Sextet was also recorded at the same event and released as the first volume of Jazz at the Plaza. An intimate live session from Duke Ellington and his great late 50s orchestra – presented here at a private party hosted by Columbia Records at the Plaza Hotel in New York – at a time when Ellington was making some of his best music for the label! The tracks here are every bit on a par with Duke's late 50s gems for Columbia – and have the orchestra stepping out strongly on short numbers that maybe have a bit more swing and a bit less overall concept – as the soloist shift, and shine nicely on each tune!
There is a lot of intriguing music on this CD, which features Duke Ellington's postwar orchestra. "Dancers in Love" (from "Perfume Suite") and "Carnegie Blues" (from "Black, Brown and Beige") managed to catch on as individual pieces, "I'm Just a Lucky So and So" and "Just Squeeze Me" were hits, and both "Tonk" and "Drawing Room Blues" showcased the piano duo of Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. A few numbers are V-Discs, including a brief version of "C Jam Blues" that features the combined orchestras of Duke Ellington and Woody Herman (his First Herd). Among the changes in personnel were Russell Procope taking over for the retiring Otto Hardwick on alto and clarinet and Oscar Pettiford succeeding Junior Raglin on bass. This underrated music ranks with some of Duke's best work.
Duke Ellington's orchestra in 1945 was riding quite high, with annual Carnegie Hall concerts, constant performing and recording, and appearances on many radio broadcasts. This disc features both studio recordings and a few V-Discs taken from radio shows. The latter are most notable for including the extended two-part "Frankie and Johnny" and the 12-and-a-half-minute "New World A-Comin'," while the studio recordings are highlighted by "Jumpin' Room Only" and three of the four parts of "Perfume Suite." With such soloists as Tricky Sam Nanton, Lawrence Brown, Al Sears, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and four trumpeters, Ellington's big band remained at the top of its field as World War II came to an end.
After starting off with a few valuable V-disc performances (including 13 minutes of the "Black, Brown and Beige" suite), this CD features some of Duke Ellington's studio recordings of April-May 1945. Although this particular band was not rated as high as their 1939-1942 counterpart, they still ranked near the top of their field. Among the gems are "The Kissing Bug," "Harlem Air Shaft," quite a few fine remakes (this version of "It Don't Mean a Thing" with singers Al Hibbler, Joya Sherrill, Kay Davis, and Marie Ellington is a classic), and a pair of unusual numbers. "Tonight I Shall Sleep" has trombonist Tommy Dorsey guesting with Duke Ellington's orchestra, while on "The Minor Goes Muggin'," Ellington sits in with Dorsey's band. Overall, there is a lot of rather interesting music to be heard on this CD from this underrated version of the Ellington big band.