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Duke Ellington: The Treasury Shows, Vol. 12

Jerry Valburn is a retired broadcast engineer and a keeper of Ellingtonia. His collection is now at the Library of Congress, and he has plans to release 24 double CDs of Ellington broadcasts for the U.S. Treasury Department. You have to put up with corny announcers and Ellington’s promos for Victory Bonds, but it’s worth it to hear classic Duke, considering the pristine sound by Armed Forces Radio Service. The highlight is “Warm Valley,” Ellington’s balladic showcase for Hodges’ trademark portamento.

These 35 tracks were recorded during September and October of 1945, which means you hear most of Ellington’s legendary sidemen. It also means taking the bad with the good, meaning the vocals with the instrumentals: Ellington made some questionable choices with singers. Marie Ellington (the future wife of Nat Cole), Kay Davis (except for her wordless contribution to “Creole Love Call”), Joya Sherrill and Al Hibbler all disappoint. But all the instrumentalists live up to their reputations. Bassist Junior Raglin, heard so clearly, provides excellent lines, Ray Nance proves why his fiddle was such a valuable asset and the underappreciated tenor saxophonist Al Sears is a gem.

Originally Published