The Essential Duke Ellington (2005)

The Essential Duke EllingtonDuke Ellington is one of America’s most important and influential jazz icons, and sadly much of his music has been forgotten in today’s contemporary music. Jazz music recently saw a revival in the genre with the critical success of Diana Krall (highest selling jazz artist ever) and the mainstream success of Nora Jones.

While listening to Duke Ellington for the first time since being in a jazz band, I realized just how difficult it would be to write a review for someone as great as “The Duke.” Where would one begin? What would one say? For over forty years, Duke Ellington and his band made some of the most influential jazz music ever recorded.

Listening to classic songs like “Take The ‘A’ Train,” “Creole Rhapsody” and “Caravan” brings back many memories of me sitting in front of the piano and trying to emulate Ellington. Even having his sheet music in front of me couldn’t help me because the essence of the music wasn’t just what Ellington wrote on the sheets, but what he felt when he wrote his music. That is something which can’t be emulated, but only enjoyed through listening to his music.

Ellington made music that danced in “Cotton Tail,” “Hot And Bothered” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” Others were warm ballads like “Come Sunday” and “Pyramid.” Duke’s homage to ragtime can be heard in the intro of “Drop Me Off At Harlem.” Listening to these tracks reminds me how jazz is supposed to be listened – live, with people, and in clubs.

Recorded jazz is incomparable to jazz played live and in-person, and although CDs — especially this two-disc set — might only be the best way that people nowadays could listen to “The Duke,” it is still an injustice. I envy those who had the chance to see and listen to Duke and his band play live.

There is no crap, and there is no filler in this music. It is pure. It is straight from the heart. It is straight to the heart.
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Track list:

DISC ONE

    1. East St. Louis Toodle-oo
    2. Black And Tan Fantasy
    3. Take It Easy
    4. Hot And Bothered
    5. The Mooche
    6. Rockin’ In Rhythm
    7. Creole Rhapsody
    8. It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
    9. Creole Love Call
    10. Sophisticated Lady
    11. Drop Me Off At Harlem
    12. Solitude
    13. In A Sentimental Mood
    14. Back Room Romp
    15. Clouds In My Heart
    16. Echoes Of Harlem
    17. Caravan
    18. Blue Reverie
    19. Diminuendo In Blue
    20. Crescendo In Blue

DISC TWO

    1. I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
    2. Pyramid
    3. Prelude To A Kiss
    4. Tired Socks
    5. Mood Indigo
    6. Ko-Ko
    7. Never No Lament (Don’t Get Around Much Anymore)
    8. Cotton Tail
    9. Take The “A” Train
    10. Harlem Air-Shaft
    11. Do Nothin’ Til You Hear From Me* (lyrics)
    12. Satin Doll
    13. Perdido
    14. Come Sunday
    15. Jeep’s Blues
    16. Black Beauty
    17. Arabesque Cookie

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