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Jazz: Seen & Heard

Duke Ellington

Question for an unwinnable debate: When did jazz begin? The RCA Victor Group decided that it began 100 years ago, more or less. That was a convenient justification for the company to mine its vast archives for significant recordings, launch yet another reissue program of artist samplers on its Bluebird label and call it The Centennial Collection. But, the RCA marketers must have asked, “How do we sell old material one more time?” Answer: Give them something to watch.

It’s a safe bet that most listeners under 60 have not seen the Centennial Collection artists in action, including Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Coleman Hawkins. And except for seven previously unissued broadcast performances by Duke Ellington (with his seminal 1941 band at the Casa Manana in Culver City, Calif.) and three by Glenn Miller, all of the music on has been reissued many times. Thus, the hook: accompanying each CD is a DVD containing clips from movies and, on three of the discs, television. Strangely, the DVDs are not trumpeted on the packages as much as they deserve to be.

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