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Paul Gonsalves: Ellingtonia Moods and Blues

One of tenorman Paul Gonsalves’ earliest leader dates, Ellingtonia Moods & Blues was recorded in New York in February 1960. Produced by Stanley Dance for release on French RCA, it boasts a fuller sounding personnel than is heard on the earlier German LP and gives us an opportunity to hear how Gonsalves sounded when playing in a typical Ellingtonian combo of the sort popular in the 1930s and later. For this session, Dance surrounded the leader with hornmen of comparable tonal strength and improvisatory skills, including altoman Johnny Hodges, trumpeter Ray Nance and trombonist Mitchell “Booty” Wood, one of the best of Tricky Sam Nanton’s stylistic beneficiaries. Not only did Dance make certain that there were sufficient arrangements and new compositions to frame the solos of these men, but he also secured the talents of more than compatible rhythmic accompanists, namely pianist Jimmy Jones, bassist Al Hall and drummer Oliver Jackson. The tunes include Hodges’ “It’s Something That You Ought to Know,” “Way, Way Back” and the achingly slow “D. A. Blues,” a three-way line that poses the alto lead against fills by the tenor over a subtly stated brass background; Gonsalves’ “Chocataw” and “The Line-Up;” and the Ellington standards “Daydream,” with Gonsalves offering a personal interpretation of the classic Hodges solo on a theme by Strayhorn and Duke, and “I’m Beginning to See the Light,” a piece traditionally credited to a combine involving, among others, Harry James. Despite its brevity, this is an excellent and little-known session.

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