Duke Ellington: All The Hits And More, 1927-54

The bandleader's chart hits feature in a compilation of familiar material lent some novelty by the addition on an informative liner note


This is a curious but interesting compilation that should be welcomed by most ducal devotees. Its 92 tracks include all 77 of the popular songs recorded by Ellington which made the chart listings over a 27-year period. It also includes some of the better-known (and certainly superior) recordings made by his various orchestras during the first three decades of his long career.

The four CDs are usefully arranged in chronological order, starting with East St. Louis Toodle-oo (1927) and ending with Skin Deep (1952), featuring Louis Bellson, which became a hit in the UK. Duke’s other No. 1 hits include Three Little Words, Cocktails For Two, Come To Baby, Do and Don’t Be So Mean To Me Baby (Cause Baby’s So Good To You), as well as more significant compositions that became “standards” – Rockin’ In Rhythm, Don’t Get Around Much Any More, Creole Love Call, Solitude, Caravan, Ko Ko, The Gal From Joe’s, Harlem Air Shaft, Perdido, Things Ain’t What They Used To Be and (not least) Take The ’A’ Train.

My nine (if allowed) Desert Island Disc choices from the three decades represented here would be The Mooche (1928), Sophisticated Lady (1933), In A Sentimental Mood (1935), Echoes Of Harlem (1936), Diminuendo In Blue, Crescendo In Blue (1937), In A Mellotone (1940), The ‘C’ Jam Blues (1942) and Satin Doll (1953). I would not request Love Is Like A Cigarette (1936), La Do Doody Do (1938) or I Don’t Mind (1944) – even a genius can make mistakes.

This is, then, an eclectic collection and most of the titles are already available in other anthologies. But an extended and informative essay by Paul Watts adds to its value. Like other commentators he notes that before writing his more extended works and “suites” in the 1960s and 70s Duke had mastered the art of crafting compositions for shellac three-minute 78rpm records.

He was also “able to play to the strengths of his extremely stable-line-up, and compose tunes designed to feature particular instrumentalists”. Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard, Lawrence Brown, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney and Sonny Greer are present on many of these sessions and were in spirit – if not in name – co-composers of their instrumental features.

Fittingly, all tracks are identified in terms of personnel, date and locations (where known). This is a budget-priced ducal cornucopia and recommended (with only slight reservations) for either completists and/or newcomers.

CD1: (1) East St. Louis Toodle-oo; Black And Tan Fantasy; Creole Love Call; Black Beauty; Doin’ The New Low Down; Diga Diga Doo; The Mooche; Three Little Words; Ring Dem Bells; Blue Again; Mood Indigo; Rockin’ In Rhythm; Creole Rhapsody Part 1; Limehouse Blues; It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing); Creole Rhapsody (New Version); Rose Room (In Sunny Roseland); Moon Over Dixie; Best Wishes; Blue Ramble; Drop Me Off In Harlem; Sophisticated Lady; Stormy Weather (71.50)
CD2: I’m Satisfied; In The Shade Of The Old Apple Tree; Daybreak Express; Cocktails Two; Moon Glow; Solitude; Saddest Tale; Merry Go Round; In A Sentimental Mood; Accent On Youth; Cotton; Isn’t Love The Strangest Thing?; Love Is Like A Cigarette; Clarinet Lament; Echoes Of Harlem; Oh Babe! Maybe Someday; Jazz Lips; Yearning For Love; The New East Louis Toodle-oo; There’s A Lull In My Life; Scattin’ At The Kit Kat; Caravan; Azure; All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm (72.35)
CD3: Diminuendo In Blue; Crescendo In Blue; Harmony In Harlem; If You Were In My Place (What Would You Do?); I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart; The Gal From Joe’s; La Do Doody Do; Lambeth Walk; Prelude To A Kiss; Something To Live For; You, You, Darlin’; Ko Ko; At A Dixie Roadside Diner; Sepia Panorama; Harlem Airshaft; In A Mellotone; All Too Soon; Flamingo; Take The A Train; I Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good; Hayfoot, Strawfoot; Just A-Settin’ And A-Rockin’; Rocks In My Bed (69.50)
CD4: Things Ain’t What They Used To Be; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Never No Lament); The ‘C’ Jam Blues; Perdido; Bojangles; A Slip Of The Lip (Can Sink A Ship); Sentimental Lady; Just Squeeze me (But Don’t Tease Me); Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me; Main Stem; My Little Brown Book; Someone; I Don’t Mind; I’m Beginning To See The Light; Don’t You Know I Care (Or Don’t You Care I Know); I Ain’t Got Nothin’ But The Blues; Come To Baby, Do; I’m Just A Lucky So-And-So; Don’t Be So Mean To Me, Baby (Cause Baby’s So Good To You; Satin Doll; Boo Dah; Skin Deep (71.08)

Ellington (p) on all tracks with players including Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, Ray Nance, Cat Anderson (t); Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol, Lawrence Brown (tb); Johnny Hodges (as, ss); Barney Bigard (cl, ts); Ben Webster, Paul Gonsalves (ts); Harry Carney (bar); Jimmy Blanton (b); Sonny Greer, Louis Bellson (d); Ivie Anderson (v). NY, NJ, Chicago and Hollywood, 1927-54.
Acrobat Music ACQCD7172