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Duke Ellington: Never No Lament

Duke Ellington: Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band (Bluebird, 2003) [recorded between 1940 and 1942]

It’s called “the Blanton-Webster band” because of the critical roles played by young, doomed bassist Jimmie Blanton (heard to best effect on a glorious series of duets with Duke) and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster (whose huffing and puffing on “Cotton Tail” can only be described in superlatives). But Ellington remains the leader, with help from new creative partner Billy Strayhorn, and the two toss out one gem after another: “Take the A Train,” “Harlem Air Shaft,” “Dusk,” “Concerto for Cootie,” “Chelsea Bridge,” “Perdido,” and the title track, to name only a few. Three discs that reveal for all time the depth of creative possibility within the big-band format. MAC RANDALL

Learn more about Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band on Amazon and Apple Music.