This is the kind of release which will delight dedicated Ellington collectors but cannot easily be recommended to others. There are eight different broadcasts here with two of the six dates shown each providing two separate programmes. They last about 15 minutes and come complete with their own announcements and opening and closing themes. (It should be noted however that not all such themes are brief; the shortest seven may all last less than a minute but “Beale St. Blues”, the longest, lasts over four minutes and six others last more than two minutes.) I believe it’s the first time any of these broadcasts have appeared on CD and the last two are not listed in the most exhaustive Ellington discography.
The main drawback for the listener seeking Ellington music of quality is the number of tracks (nine) featuring non-jazz vocalists Davis and Crumpler (a disappointing replacement for Al Hibbler) and they regrettably include a repeated song by each singer. Even without any singing a significant composition such as “Harlem Airshaft” is weakened by Harold Baker’s failure to match the previous contributions of Williams and Stewart, which emphasises the difference in solo potential between this section of five and the three trumpeters of the 30s.
However, Nance’s trumpet solos are always worthwhile and his vocal on “St. Louis Blues” is satisfying enough (though his repeated deliveries of the strange lyrics of “Tulip or Turnip” are less so). Similarly Hodges and Lawrence Brown can always be relied upon for quality and “Happy-Go-Lucky Local”, “Caravan”, ‘Stompy Jones” and “Royal Garden Blues” all receive spirited and rewarding performances.
The final broadcast is particularly interesting because the pieces announced as “Too Weary to Worry” and “Flirtation” are seemingly the first surviving performances of “Lady of the Lavender Mist” and “H’ya Sue”, which were recorded as such in the Columbia studios a couple of weeks later. For the serious student of Ellingtonia that makes this rather surprising release from Sounds Of Yesteryear even more appealing.
CD1: (1) Moon Mist (introduction); (2) Prisoner of Love; (1) Harlem Airshaft; (3) Brown Penny; (1) Moon Mist (closing); Beale St. Blues (introduction); Memphis Blues; (4) St. Louis Blues; (1) Mood Indigo; Harlem Airshaft (closing); (5) ‘A’ Train (introduction); Happy-Go-Lucky Local; (6) Minnehaha; (5) Hiawatha; Beale St. Blues (closing); (7) ‘A’ Train (introduction); (8) It’s Kinda Lonesome Out Tonight; (7) Caravan; (9) When I Walk Without You; (7) Passion Flower (closing) (56.34)
CD2: (7) Moon Mist (introduction); Passion Flower; (10) Tulip or Turnip; (7) Stompy Jones (closing); (11) Squeeze Me / ‘A’ Train (introduction); Royal Garden Blues; (12) I Like the Sunrise; (11) Sophisticated Lady; (13) Brown Penny; (11) How Blue the Night; (14) ‘A’ Train (introduction); Flippant Flurry; (15) It’s Kind of Lonesome Out Tonight; (14) Hollywood Hangover; (16) Tulip or Turnip (closing); (17) ‘A’ Train (introduction); Too Weary to Worry (Lady of the Lavender Mist; Flirtation (H’ya Sue); (18) Azalea; (17) Caravan (closing) (58.49)
(1) Harold Baker, Dud Bascomb, Shelton Hemphill, Francis Williams (t); Ray Nance (t, vn); Lawrence Brown, Tyree Gleen, Claude Jones (tb); Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Al Sears, Harry Carney (reeds); Ellington (p); Oscar Pettiford (b); Sonny Greer (d). Ciro’s Restaurant, Hollywood, 25 July 1947. (2) add Chester Crumpler (v). (3) Kay Davis (v) replaces Crumpler. (4) Nance (v) replaces Davis. (5) as (1) 30 July 1947. (6) add Davis (v). (7) as (1) 1 August 1947. (8) add Crumpler (v). (9) Davis (v) replaces Crumpler. (10) Nance (v) replaces Davis. (11) as (1) 5 August 1947. (12) add Crumpler (v). (13) Davis (v) replaces Crumpler. (14) as (1) 6 August 1947. (15) add Crumpler (v). (16) Nance (v) replaces Crumpler. (17) as (1). 7 August 1947. (18) add Crumpler (v).
Sounds of Yester Year DSOD2100