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Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra: The Duke At Fargo 1940 Special 60th Anniversary Edition

The Duke at Fargo 1940 is a remarkable amateur recording of a Ellington dance date from the Crystal Ballroom, in Fargo, N.D.; it calls for tolerance from the DVD generation. Thanks to two dedicated fans who obtained permission from the William Morris agency-one a high school senior; the other a college student-we have a fascinating document of a bygone era: a dance gig plus a remote broadcast replete with a cliche-ridden, KVOX radio announcer (Yes, he does say “from downtown Fargo.”) and vamp-till-ready delays by the production-hip Duke.

Regardless of occasional skips on the portable, battery-operated disc cutter, missing some opening measures and the adjusting of mics in the middle of songs, young Jack Towers and Dick Burris managed to capture an incredible chapter in jazz history: the Ellington juggernaut that included trumpeters Rex Stewart, Wallace Jones and Ray Nance (Nance, who doubled on violin, replaced Cootie Williams just before this recording); trombonists Tricky Sam Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown; reedists Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Otto Hardwicke, Ben Webster, Harry Carney; guitarist Fred Guy; bassist Jimmy Blanton; drummer Sonny Greer; and vocalists Ivie Anderson and Herb Jeffries.

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