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Various Artists: Secret Ellington

In 1958, Ellington and Strayhorn wrote 22 tunes to lyrics by Herb Martin for a play called Saturday Laughter. A funny thing happened on the way to Broadway. The money dried up and the show never made it. The exact circumstances of the rediscovery of these songs is not clear, but 12 of them now appear-all previously unrecorded-on Secret Ellington, produced by Todd Barkan.

This is a really fine album. Personnel varies from track to track. Singers Ian Shaw, Freddy Cole, Jeffery Smith, Judi Silvano and Karen Oberlin are involved, as are arrangers and instrumentalists James Pearson, Arturo O’Farrill and Joe Beck. Although the performances-all combo affairs-give no inkling of how Ellington might have approached these tunes with his band, they respect the melodies and lyrics and, from time to time, conjure up the Ellington tonal romance and mystique.

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