Product Description & Reviews
Close your eyes, dip your hand into this treasure chest, and play any of the 462 tracks contained within: you are guaranteed to hear something magnificent. It may be a stunning composition, an innovative arrangement, or an astonishing improvisational passage, but the brilliance is there. It is only fitting that the greatest figure in 20th-century popular music is the subject of this most wondrous box set. Across 24 discs, the majesty and unparalleled genius of Duke Ellington is on vivid display. Listening to the box from start to finish in chronological order, you discover a composer, bandleader, and pianist who consistently and daringly pushed his music ever forward. As fascinating as it is to hear his artistic progression as it unfolds, it is even more remarkable to digest these CDs out of order. During the course of 50 years, Ellington's creative wellspring gushed an amazing variety of music delivered in a multitude of different styles and settings; yet somehow, someway, it all sounds like Ellington. Whereas some artists find the blues idiom constricting, Duke saw it as a highly malleable and versatile foundation. The first seven CDs chronicle the maestro's Cotton Club days and his theatrical, visceral "jungle music," which was created as part of the club's African-themed stage shows and "tribal" dances. Even at this early stage, Ellington showed a tremendous ability to create expressive moods and keen imagery through his compositions as well as an uncanny understanding of his players' strengths. Six discs are dedicated to the early 1940s, when tenor sax player Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton elevated the band to new heights. The next three CDs cover the mid-1940s, when the Duke began experimenting with longer pieces. Another combines mid-1940s all-star jams with a full 1952 Seattle concert. All three of Ellington's Sacred Concerts follow, a bold, pioneering fusion of jazz and church, complete with choir and dance, that used the language of music to eloquently sermonize on the subjects of personal freedom, spirituality, and communication with God. The collection wraps up with four discs' worth of late-period magic, including the exotic and dramatic Far East Suite and an homage to recently departed Billy Strayhorn. This stunning package also serves as a tribute to all of the superior musicians that found a home in the Ellington Orchestra. Special mention must be made of altoist Johnny Hodges, who first recorded with Ellington in 1928 and stayed with him (except for a brief respite in the 1950s) until his death in 1970. Throughout, his sublime tone and fertile imagination epitomize the beauty, inventiveness, and dignity that is the essence of jazz. Also of note are the many superb compositions and arrangements from Strayhorn, who managed to carve a vital niche for himself while remaining true to the sound of Ellingtonia. The accompanying 128-page full-color book overflows with wonderful photos and insightful essays that explore Ellington from every possible angle. The discographical information is delivered with excruciating detail and the package as a whole exudes love, devotion, and respect. Somewhere deep inside the book, producer Orrin Keepnews writes, "When dealing with the music of Edward Kennedy Ellington, there is no excuse for stopping anywhere short of perfection." Mission accomplished. --Marc Greilsamer (Casual listeners might prefer the single-CD sampler.)
Features & Highlights
|Item Weight:||4.4 pounds|
|Item Size:||11.25 x 2 x 2 inches|
|Package Weight:||4.4 pounds|
|Package Size:||10.8 x 2 x 2 inches|
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