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Duke Ellington: Jazz Party

Apparently licensed from Sony/Columbia by Mobile Fidelity, this is an attractive record that should certainly be kept available. In the original liner notes, Irving Townsend permitted himself some producer’s hyperbole in stating that it was the most exciting album he “ever heard.” The premise of a studio jazz party actually applied to the four-part “Red Carpet Suite,” “U.M.M.G.,” “All of Me” and “Hello, Little Girl,” the other two titles by a nine-piece percussion section (“Malltoba Spank” and “Tymperturbably Blue”) having been recorded the following week.

Much has been made of Dizzy Gillespie’s enterprising solo on “U.M.M.G.” and following Jimmy Rushing on “Hello, Little Girl,” but it was a surprising move on Ellington’s part to feature him when his own four valiants-Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Willie Cook, and Shorty Baker-were sitting in the studio, especially since Cook had shown the way on the first a number of years before. The suite tends to be underrated now, but it has good statements, notably from Britt Woodman, Shorty Baker, Ray Nance, and Paul Gonsalves, the last of whom storms away in his Newport style. Rushing, of course, was very happy with the opportunity to sing and record with the Ellington band, and sounds like it.

The two percussion pieces are unique. The clutter of vibes, xylophones, marimba, glockenspiel, and tympani creates an unexpectedly agreeable, Ellington-Strayhorn textural effect, one valuably helped by Sam Woodyard’s cymbals.

Originally Published