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Various Artists: Impulsively Ellington!

Multi-artist anthologies rarely succeed in presenting satisfyingly cohesive summaries of their themes, but this one comes close, primarily because the guiding rationale throughout its 28 tracks is the music of Duke Ellington. A second factor in its near success is the invariably high quality of most of the performances selected for inclusion, chief among them those recorded by Duke’s star soloists and a number of their stylistically empathetic contemporaries and disciples. Thus, we have in the first category Paul Gonsalves’ “Action in Alexandria” and “Duke’s Place,” Johnny Hodges’ “Main Stem,” and the single-track medley, “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart,” “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” Clark Terry’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” and “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,” Ben Webster’s “In a Mellow Tone” and “Single Petal of a Rose,” Lawrence Brown’s “Mood Indigo,” and Louie Bellson’s “Cotton Tail.” Comparable virtues are to be found on some of the other tracks, especially those by Benny Carter, Milt Jackson, Charles Mingus, Earl Hines, Lionel Hampton, and Pee Wee Russell, but the remaining performances lack the track-to-track stylistic compatibility of these. Included in this third category are selections by Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Gabor Szabo, Manny Albam, Yusef Lateef, Elvin Jones, Oliver Nelson, and most inappropriately of all, Archie Shepp, whose “In a Sentimental Mood” is largely an exercise in tasteless self-indulgence.

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