Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Duke Ellington - Blues in Orbit

The atmospheric, floating quality (see title) of the production and the mysterious, airy, and sparse arrangements make this album an overlooked gem in the Ellington catalog. Two of the tracks were cut in 1958 utilizing the full 15-piece orchestra: the slow-moving blues of the title track, where the leader's eerie piano fills answer the statements of the full band, and "Track 360," a dramatic aural representation of a train wreck. The remainder of the CD (minus one other track) was recorded with slightly smaller configurations at two midnight sessions in December of the following year. Ray Nance (the only trumpet because of band restructuring) and especially Johnny Hodges offer the most rewarding solo contributions of the date, many of which stand alongside their best ever. Hodges's magnificently fragile and seductive alto graces "Brown Penny" and handles both delicate and driving passages with aplomb on Billy Strayhorn's "Smada" (with the composer in the piano chair) while Nance belts out the bridge. The band also revisits earlier classics from the Ellington songbook: Nance shows his violin prowess on "C Jam Blues" before growling through "In a Mellotone"; "Sentimental Lady" is in Hodges's capable caress. - by Marc Greilsamer, AMG

Artist: Duke Ellington and His Award Winners
Album: Blues in Orbit
Year: 1958
Label: Columbia (2009)
Runtime: 61:34

Tracks:
1.  Three J's Blues (Jimmy Hamilton) 2:54
2.  Smada (Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn) 2:38
3.  Pie Eye's Blues (Duke Ellington) 3:27
4.  Sweet & Pungent (Billy Strayhorn) 4:03
5.  C Jam Blues (Duke Ellington) 4:52
6.  In a Mellow Tone (Duke Ellington) 2:43
7.  Blues in Blueprint (Duke Ellington) 3:43
8.  The Swingers Get the Blues, too (Duke Ellington/Matthew Gee) 3:09
9.  The Swinger's Jump (Duke Ellington) 3:53
10.  Blues in Orbit (Billy Strayhorn) 2:29
11.  Villes Ville Is the Place, Man (Duke Ellington) 2:33
12.  Track 360 [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 2:03
13.  Sentimental Lady [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 4:02
14.  Brown Penny [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 3:02
15.  Pie eEye's Blues [Alternate take] [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 3:32
16.  Sweet & Pungent [Alternate take] [Bonus] (Billy Strayhorn) 3:52
17.  The Swinger's Jump [Alternate take] [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 3:51
18.  Blues in Orbit [Alternate take] [Bonus] (Billy Strayhorn) 2:39
19.  Track 360 [Alternate take] [Bonus] (Duke Ellington) 2:01

Personnel:
Duke Ellington (Piano)
Clark Terry (Trumpet) - 10,12,18,19
Cat Anderson (Trumpet) - 10,12,18,19
Shorty Baker (Trumpet) - 10,12,18,19
Ray Nance (Trumpet, Violin)
Quentin Jackson (Trombone) - 10-12,17-19
Britt Woodman (Trombone)
John Sanders (Trombone) - 10-12,17-19
Bill Graham (Alto Saxophone) - 10-12,17-19
Harry Carney (Alto and Baritone Saxophone, Bass Clarinet)
Jimmy Hamilton (Tenor Saxophone, Clarinet) - 1-10,12-19
Paul Gonsalves (Tenor Saxophone) - 1,3-5,10,12-16,18,19
Jimmy Woode (Double Bass)
Sam Woodyard (Drums) - 10-12,18,19
Johnny Hodges (Alto Saxophone) - 1-9,11,13-17
Booty Wood (Trombone) - 1-9,13-17
Matthew Gee (Trombone) - 1-9,13-17
Russell Procope (Alto Saxophone, Clarinet) - 1-9,13-17
Jimmy Johnson (Drums) - 1-9,13-17
Billy Strayhorn (Piano) - 2,7

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