In the summer of 1974, I purchased a two-record album by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. It was the 70th Birthday Concert and it was recorded live during a 1969 tour. Somewhere in my archives, I still have the original vinyl set. Since that purchase, this album has been in my top five of all-time favorite recordings list.
One very important aspect of these performances is the audible communications of Ellington during various numbers. He teases, praises, and encourages the band members, especially during and after solos. I’ve always been fascinated by how closely the individual performers were in sync with the others. Their timing was impeccable and while one was performing a solo improv, it seemed as if the others intuitively knew what was coming up and responded accordingly with their accompaniments.
Now, Jazz-haus has come out with a live recording of Ellington et al from 1967. The performance was captured in Liederhalle Stuttgart and is another volume in their "Big Bands Live" series. All the big names are together again, including trumpeters Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson, clarinettist Russell Procope, and saxophonist Paul Gonsalves.
The album opens with a fifty-five second version of Ellington’s theme, “Take the ‘A’ Train.” This Billy Strayhorn composition is my favorite of Ellington’s repertoire and its brevity on this recording is its only shortcoming.
In all, there are thirteen tracks including “Knobb Hill,” “Swamp Goo,” “A Chromatic Love Affair,” and “Tuttie for Cootie.” When “Tootie for Cootie” came on (I’ve seen several different spellings.) I had to confirm which CD was in the player. It sounded so much like the one from the ‘69 tour.
Big Bands Live, Duke Ellington Orchestra will please Ellington and jazz enthusiasts who will be pleased to add this collection to their libraries.