From the Record Shelves #225

New Orleans Lowdown

CD Documents Archives Musiques FCD 5111

Now I’m back with the early Ellington. The French release of all his recordings in chronological order reached twelve volumes, and I’m lucky to have them. Here you get all the versions of the masterpieces recorded for different companies, and with all the surviving takes. For a jazz nerd like myself, it is interesting to compare and note all the differences: different solos on different takes and changes in the arrangements on different versions. It’s impressive how they have the energy and artistic talent to change things in a short time from one session to another.

We hear how the famous compositions evolve, but there are also some lesser-known pieces, like this one, worthy of attention. In this year 1927, Duke Ellington and his men got Irving Mills as their manager, which opened many doors. Recording possibilities with Victor and Columbia followed, and at the end of the year they had secured a very important contract, in retrospective, at the Cotton Club in Harlem, New York.

Here the band plays an Ellington composition with the successful formula of an original theme and solo spots based on the 12-bar blues. It’s a festive opening, and after that an interesting boogie-woogie bass line under the theme is played in unison by the tuba and baritone sax. There are two trumpet solos that are stylistically the same but have a different sound. I guess that Louis Metcalfe is growling in the first one and Bubber Miley growls and “talks” in the second. In between, we hear an alto solo by Otto Hardwicke. An arranged part follows, including a break using the whole tone scale, and then we hear “Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone, he’s said to have been the originator of the growl style. Ellington makes a short piano solo before the arranged finish, and Bubber gets the last word as he often does.

Everybody does a good job, and I should also mention Fred Guy’s banjo playing with the right portion of fancy strokes here and there.

The name of the band in this session is Duke Ellington & His Kentucky Club Orchestra.