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Duke Ellington: Duke’s Joint

In addition to the staggering wealth of Ellington’s studio recordings, concerts, radio transcriptions, and previously unreleased material from a variety of sources currently being made available on CD, there also exists a substantial body of well-recorded airchecks from the 1940s that heretofore could only be found on limited edition mail order LPs. Devoted collectors purchased these Armed Forces Radio Service (AFRS) broadcasts in an extensive series of privately published LPs, but to date this material has yet to surface on CD. However, a chink in the wall just appeared with the release of a single disc on Buddha.

Purported to have been “taken from two dates of live radio broadcasts in October 1945” from New York’s Cafe Zanzibar, what we actually find on the disc is one complete broadcast from October 1 (the first nine tracks, from the opening “Take the ‘A’ Train” through “Cotton Tail”) and seven more selections of different origins. Of these, the Harry Carney feature, “I’ll Buy That Dream,” Joya Sherrill’s “Autumn Serenade,” and “How Deep Is the Ocean?” appear to have come from the October 13 broadcast, but discographical entries for “Fickie Fling” suggest possible air dates of either September 22 or 26, and, even more widely divergent of the mark, both aural and textual evidence support the conjecture that “Goin’ Up,” “Jump for Joy,” and Betty Roche’s “I Wonder Why” originated in the December 8, 1943 broadcast from Langley Field Army Air Force Base. (On these, a jaunty Tricky Sam Nanton solos on the first two titles, whereas in October 1945, because of a severe illness which would lead to his death the following July, he limited himself to section playing only. Another clincher is that Betty Roche had left the band by April 1944. If these two indicators aren’t enough, note that the applause level indicates a far larger audience than could possibly have fit in any night club, much less the modest-size Zanzibar.)

Although this disc is recommended on the basis of its containing several arrangements never recorded commercially by the band, as well as sterling solo contributions by Rex Stewart, Ray Nance, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, Jimmy Hamilton, Al Sears, and Carney, patient collectors would do well to follow the market. Sooner or later, all of the broadcasts will appear on CD and, it is hoped, in proper chronological sequence.

Originally Published