DUKE ELLINGTON — Duke Ellington, Volume 1 - Mrs. Clinkscales To The Cotton Club (1926-1929) (review)

DUKE ELLINGTON — Duke Ellington, Volume 1 - Mrs. Clinkscales To The Cotton Club (1926-1929) album cover Boxset / Compilation · 2005 · Classic (1920s) Jazz Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
The lengthy title to “Duke Ellington: Mrs Clinkscales to the Cotton Club Volume 1 1926-1929” pretty much tells you what you will find on here, or does it? Actually, despite the misleading title, this massive collection of music contains many tracks from 1924 and 1925, when Ellington was part of The Washingtonians. You would think the producers of this CD would be proud of this, as many Ellington collections don’t go back that far. Why they got part of the title wrong remains a mystery, but it doesn’t change the fact that this is a great collection of music that often sells for a reasonable price. If you are wondering about the rest of the title, Mrs Clinkscales is the unlikely name of the piano teacher who set young Duke on his musical journey, and the Cotton Club is where Duke will find fame in the early 30s.

Late 20s jazz is a style you rarely hear from anymore. Other early jazz styles such as Dixieland, swing and New Orleans have so many revivals and re-constitutions that they have never really left us, but the high octane exuberant nature of 20s jazz makes it hard to incorporate into other styles. The late 20s was also a time of experimentation, with arrangers staying on top of the latest developments in concert hall compositions, as well as developing some tricks of their own. Although as his career will develop, Ellington will become a master of cool and sophisticated music, in the late 20s, his compositions matched the high speed tempos and bright major key tonalities of his contemporaries. In fact, as you listen to this collection chronologically, you can hear Ellington begin to introduce his slinky minor key noire sounds when songs like “East St Louis Toodle Oo” and “Black and Tan Fantasy” start to show up. As jazz began to change in the 30s, those relaxed minor key melodies stayed in the Ellington set, while the more ‘20s’ sounding fare got left behind.

Lots of good tracks on here, if you looking for the numbers with imaginative arrangements; CD 1 has “I’m Gonna Hang Around My Sugar” and CD 2 has “Hop Head”, “Washington Wobble” and Jubilee Stomp”. CD3 has “Hot and Bothered”and CD 4 has “Tiger Rag”. If you have any curiosity about late 20s jazz, this is a great place to start. For Ellington fans, this is a chance to hear the Duke in a style that he (or anyone else) never returned to.
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