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Where to Start with Duke Ellington

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Category: Jazz Music Lounges
Forum Name: Jazz Music Recommendations/Featured albums
Forum Description: Make or seek recommendations and discuss specific jazz music albums
Printed Date: 29 May 2023 at 1:26pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 10.16 -

Topic: Where to Start with Duke Ellington
Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Subject: Where to Start with Duke Ellington
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 9:32am
Quick story at age 15 (in 1997) I took a trip to London with my dad and we went to an HMV and fout this huge room full of nothing but Jazz. My dad noticed wall to wall in the back of this room was nothing but Duke Ellington.  Just this 40 foot space 5 shelf high space of nothing but The Duke.

It was inevitable when I started Collecting Jazz a few months ago after appreciating it for decades that I'd have to have some Duke in the collection. But where do I even start? He recorded for well over 40 years and has countless albums and collaborations. He may very well be the greatest American composer of the 20th century. I'm a bit intimidated.  Now your suggestions can be CD or Vinyl. I'm not an audio snob. Though I mostly collect vinyl there are somethings that you just simply cannot get on vinyl anymore so CD compilations are absolutely fine by me. I found an old Time Life compliation on Vinyl that covers maybe the first 15 years of his career. But I know there is way WAY more. So suggest away.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 9:47am
You have come to the right place, I love Ellington and have a lot of reviews up on the site that you should check out, just check our Ellington section.

For starters I recommend "Ellington Uptown", as much as I love vinyl, you may want to get this on CD because of all the extras and the much lower cost.

Next you may want to try his more 'symphonic' opus "Such Sweet Thunder", I have this on vinyl.

I have reviews up for both of those, check that out and I'll have more for you.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 9:55am
This version of Uptown?" rel="nofollow -

I saw quite a few versions when I looked it up.

Also might help to peruse my Amazon wish list for Jazz I have a ton of Ellington on it and might need help weeding it out, also it'll give you an idea of who else I'm into." rel="nofollow -

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 10:24am
Yes, hold on, I have to work for a bit, I'll be back.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 10:52am
No rush

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 11:37am
OK, I'm back for a bit. That was the correct version of "Ellington Uptown" you posted, it has the added "Liberian suite" and Controversial Suite", two excellent extended numbers. 
Here is our entry, plus the review.
http:///duke-ellington/ellington-uptown-aka-hi-fi-ellington-uptown" rel="nofollow - http:///duke-ellington/ellington-uptown-aka-hi-fi-ellington-uptown

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 12:43pm
I got a 404 when clicked on that

Edit: Never mind found it when I typed it in to the search function, reading it now.

Posted By: Matt
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 4:39pm
John above is the Ellington expert. Still it won't stop me. Smile My favourite Ellington comps are early ones "East St Louis Toodle-oo" and the classic "It Don't Mean A Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)"  and of course the later "Ellington At Newport" which does not kick off until one gets to "Diminuendo In Blue and Crescendo In Blue", Paul Gonsalves on sax gives one of the best solo's ever. It just goes on and on and stays fresh right through. Most say it is Ellington's greatest.  For me something about "East St Louis Toodle" with it's 1920's sound, they don't make it like that anymore.


Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 5:28pm
Vinyl or the CD with the complete concert for Ellington at Newport or just get both?

I'm from Rhode Island so either way this concert is a must for me.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 7:41pm
You want the complete CD on that one, the original LP has the phony concert. Check my review and it will give you all the details. Hold on and I'll post a link.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 7:43pm
Copy and paste this link.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 18 Mar 2015 at 11:31pm
Definitely going to pick up Uptown and live at Newport.  The last piece of the puzzle is the best  compilation of his early stuff from the 30s-40s.  There was at least one I'm looking into. But something more comprehensive would be great.

Edit: This looks like a good package" rel="nofollow -

This also looks promising" rel="nofollow -

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 5:17am
^ I thought both collections looked nice as overviews, I liked the selection on the second one slightly better, but both are probably good.
I also like collections that are a little more one period oriented, such as this amazing collection of his late 20s music:
"Duke Ellington: Mrs Clinkscales to the Cotton Club Volume 1: 1926-1929"

Duke's late 20s music is something else, late 20s in general is a great time for jazz.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 7:57am
This was the best of I found on Vinyl" rel="nofollow -

It has some of the essentials it seems but not as comprehensive as the CDs, BUT it's also 30-40s Duke on Vinyl.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 8:07am
^ that looks like a fun one. 
I have lots of re-issue comps for Duke on vinyl, in the 70s they were fairly plentiful and inexpensive, getting harder to find now I guess.

By the way, when Duke re-records songs, the arrangements are never the same, so as you buy various comps over the years, you will hear different versions of many of his favorites.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 8:15am
That's good to know. I think I have plenty to work with now.

Next up is figuring out Count Basie and Miles Davis (mostly what 70s albums aren't TOO weird)

But that's fodder for another thread

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 9:11am
Yeah, I have lots of Miles, lots of different styles and career phases, most of it interesting.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 9:55am
I don't have any Miles yet, well legitimately, I have terrible quality MP3s I won't even count as part of a collection.

Sketches of Spain, Bitches Brew, Kind of Blue, Cannon Ball Adderly's Somethin else, a mono pressing of Miles ahead, Round about Midnight and In a Silent way are on my radar.

I can take or leave Birth of the Cool.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 9:58am
All of those sound good. I really like "Birth of the Cool", but I know its not a lot of people's favorite.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 10:20am
The thing with Miles is as he got older, he got weirder. Both his look and personality. Can't deny he's a legend. But he did alot of strange things in the 70s. His 80s stuff sounds like stereotypical porn music.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 11:08am
Ha ha, thats a funny way of putting it, and he probably wouldn't mind.
I do like "Amandla", its a cut above his other 80s records. It has real compositions, not just recorded jam sessions.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 11:24am
Giving it a listen on You Tube now. It does fit my description of his later music, but it is still him and the trumpet and the Trumping is superb.

Not sure if this would find it's way in my collection. It is still a very 80s sounding album.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 19 Mar 2015 at 3:04pm
Yes, its extremely 80s sounding, but I thought they wrote a couple of good tunes, something that Miles hadn't done in a long time.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 7:28am
If you strip out the dated 80s sound and just isolate his playing it's perfect.

Back to Ellington, what are your thoughts on Money Jungle with Max Roach and Charles Mingus?

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 8:54am
I like that one a lot, but some people are not too fond of it, it is different. I haven't listened to it in a while, but as I recall, it is sort of a jazz/blues album.
Ellington's piano playing is kind of quirky, some like it more than others.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 9:14am
I am a huge fan of Mingus so I've been wanting to check it out for awhile. For some Mingus begins and ends with Mingus Ah Um. For others, he was consistently great.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 9:51am
Mingus is always interesting, I like the usually overlooked early part of his career.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 2:58pm
I'll probably end up with most of Mingus' discography I'm eying Let my children Hear music next.

I'm also really into Yusef Lateef lately. He's changed the way I look at the flute.

Posted By: js
Date Posted: 20 Mar 2015 at 3:53pm
There's a lot of variety with Yusef.

Posted By: PopetherevXXVIII
Date Posted: 21 Mar 2015 at 3:13pm
Yeah he's very unique and diverse. Something my collection needs to keep it from getting samey and me getting burn out.

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