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Côte d'Azur Concerts On Verve (Box Set)

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Album Review

This is an eight-CD set more for Duke Ellington fanatics than for general listeners. Originally, some of the music came out as a two-LP set (Ella and Duke at the Cote D'Azur) and a single album (Ellington's Soul Call), but the great majority of the material was previously unreleased when this box came out in 1998. It contains all of the existing music from four concerts performed in France in 1966. Although Ella Fitzgerald gets first billing, she is only on 28 selections and is completely absent from discs one, three, four and eight, having just three songs on disc two. The 1966 Duke Ellington Orchestra included trumpeters Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson, trombonist Lawrence Brown and the remarkable reed section of Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney; they are fortunately in fine form throughout, playing some standards but also plenty of lesser-known concert material including selections from "Such Sweet Thunder." Two of Ellington's alumni, cornetist Ray Nance and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, make notable guest appearances on the July 29 concert. The first seven discs are from four concerts, many selections are repeated, and even the verbal introductions by Duke tend to be similar — but Ellington scholars will love comparing the different versions. The eighth disc has a rehearsal by the Ellington band from July 28 as the musicians run through "The Old Circus Train Turn-Around Blues," "Blue Fuse No. 1 and 2" and "The Shepherd." Ellington, producer Norman Granz and some of the musicians are heard commenting along the way. All of the music (except for a final version of "The Old Circus Train") is just excerpts from the arrangements. This disc is worth listening to closely once, but it is for the multiple live performances that Duke's fans will most want the box; pity that Ellington received second billing!

Customer Reviews

An ultimate Classic!!!!

I discovered the box set in tapes in 1999. I was amazed by such a level of intensity! If you want to listen great Jazz. Go for it!


Born: April 25, 1917 in Newport News, VA

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s

"The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was arguably the finest female jazz singer of all time (although some may vote for Sarah Vaughan or Billie Holiday). Blessed with a beautiful voice and a wide range, Fitzgerald could outswing anyone, was a brilliant scat singer, and had near-perfect elocution; one could always understand the words she sang. The one fault was that, since she always sounded so happy to be singing, Fitzgerald did not always dig below the surface of the lyrics she interpreted...
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