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Duke Ellington: First Time! The Count Meets the Duke

Recorded in one mammoth session on July 6/7, 1961, with requisite breaks for recreational liberties, the music that was released on the original For the First Time! LP represents only the first eight of the 15 tracks heard on this comprehensive stereo issue. Since they are only now being restored to their original length, as heard on the simultaneous mono release, the stereo versions of “Take the ‘A’ Train”and “BDB” qualify as first-time issues, as do also the properly remastered “One More Once,” a fruitful five-tenor blues jam, and “Blues in Hoss’ Flat,” which were previously available only in technically flawed versions on French CBS. Also new are alternate takes and rehearsal cuts of “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “BDB,” and “Wild Man (Moore)” and “Battle Royal,” the only charts Duke chose to bring in from his score for the contemporaneous film, Paris Blues. On the alternate of the latter title, one must empathize with Basie’s highly competent section baritonist, Charlie Fowlkes, who was initially called upon to follow Harry Carney’s blistering eight bars with eight of his own. As with many of the tunes, the rundowns of the master performances differ widely from the alternates, so Charlie was spared what might have been an embarrassing public moment.

The unprecedented interweaving statements of Basie’s and Duke’s prime soloists, together with the supportive impact provided by their blended counterparts in the combined brass and reed sections, constitutes one of the rare pleasures of modern-day life. Only a fanciful meeting in 1940 of these two giants, Duke and Basie, could have produced an event more thrilling. Just imagine Ben and Pres, Cootie and Buck, and Tricky and Dicky all on the same bandstand! As we used to say, it just blows the mind.

Originally Published