Duke Ellington's concert at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival lacked the excitement and adventure of his appearances in 1956 and 1958. Ellington and his orchestra played their usual program of standards and features with the 14-and-a-half-minute "Idiom '59" being introduced…
Now that Duke Ellington had regained his former commercial success with his performance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, he was free for the remainder of his career to essentially play what he pleased. This live performacne from ranges from old favorites like "I Got It Bad" and "Sophisticated Lady" to the spectacular Britt Woodman trombone feature on "Theme Trambene," the whimsical "Pretty and the Wolf," a fresh rendition of "Harlem Air Shaft" featuring trumpeter Clark Terry and the extended "Harlem Suite." Baritonist Harry Carney, high-note trumpet wizard Cat Anderson and altoist Johnny Hodges all have their great moments on this enjoyable set.
This two-CD set gives one a good example of how Duke Ellington's Orchestra sounded in 1959. Greatly expanded from the original single LP, the release essentially brings back a full night by the Ellington band. The music ranges from old favorites to some newer material and highlights include Billy Strayhorn sitting in on his "Take the 'A' Train," several selections from the recent Anatomy of a Murder soundtrack, versions of "Drawing Room Blues" and "Tonk" that have both Ellington and Strayhorn on piano, an 11-minute rendition of "Mood Indigo" and quite a few features for altoist Johnny Hodges.
Venerable jazz bassist and session musician of choice, Buster Williams steers this thoroughly swinging quartet through a set of vibrant standards and original compositions along with an ace front line consisting of pianist Mulgrew Miller and vibist Steve Nelson. Recorded live in 1999 at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the bassist once again exhibits his seasoned musical persona via fluent lines, limber soloing, and a comprehensive sense of swing. Meanwhile, Nelson and Miller share most of the soloing opportunities as they consistently demonstrate a keen harmonic relationship atop drummer Carl Allen's masterstrokes and the leader's sinewy walking bass patterns.