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At the Alhambra

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Album Review

Much of the music on this CD from Duke Ellington's 1958 Paris concerts is familiar to collectors from its appearance on various European bootleg labels, but Pablo does a better job arranging and annotating this music, which was recorded by Radio France with permission. The program mixes favorites such as "Take the 'A' Train" (featuring trumpeter Ray Nance, who also soloed on its recorded debut), the always exciting medley of "Kinda Dukish" and "Rockin' in Rhythm" (though the first piece is not listed), and the inevitable wailing extended solo by Paul Gonsalves in "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue." "Juniflip," a fairly new piece written to feature Clark Terry's matchless flügelhorn, was performed only a handful of times and left the band book with his departure the following year. "Frustration," a complex piece featuring baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, never received proper acclaim, though it clearly is a high point of the concert. Alto sax great Johnny Hodges is the focal point of "Jeep's Blues," "All of Me," and a blistering "Things Ain't What They Used to Be." While the music is well recorded and swinging, it is not without its blemishes. A rapid-fire take of "Newport Up" finds both clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton and Gonsalves having repeated problems with reed squeaks, so it is possible that the bandleader was punishing them for overindulging prior to the set (as he was known to do), but both Terry and drummer Sam Woodyard save the day. Hamilton's problems evaporate during the previously unreleased "Tenderly," though W.E. Timmer's excellent Ellington discography indicates that this track may have come from a concert elsewhere in Paris on the previous night. The excellent liner notes by Paul De Barros are an added bonus to this very rewarding disc.


Born: April 29, 1899 in Washington D.C.

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '20s, '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years. The two aspects of his career were related; Ellington used his band as a musical laboratory for his new compositions and shaped his writing specifically to showcase the talents of his bandmembers, many of whom remained with him for long periods. Ellington also wrote film scores and stage musicals, and several of his instrumental works...
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