Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo [TrackList follows] – Columbia/ ORG: Duke Ellington – Blues in Orbit [TrackList follows] – Columbia/ ORG:

by | Feb 5, 2013 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo [TrackList follows] – Columbia/ Original Recordings Group ORG 131 45 rpm double vinyl *****:

Duke Ellington – Blues in Orbit [TrackList follows] – Columbia/ Original Recordings Group ORG 120 45 rpm double vinyl *****:

(On Jazz Party = Trumpets: Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Cat Anderson, Shorty Baker, Andres Ford; Saxes: Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Jimmy Hamilton, Russell Procope; Trombones: Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson, John Sanders; Piano: Ellington, Jimmy Jones; Bass: Jimmy Woode; Drums: Sam Woodyard; Vocalist: Jimmy Rushing; Percussion: Morris Goldenberg, George Gaber, Elden C. Bailey, Chauncey Morehouse, Harry Breuer, Robert M. Rosengarden, Walter E. Rosenberger, Bradley Spinney, Milton Schlesinger)

(On Blues in Orbit = Most of the same, plus Ray Nance on violin, Jimmy Hamilton on clarinet, Booty Wood & Matthew Gee Jr. on trombones, Matthew Gee Jr. on baritone horn)

Wow – what an immersion in ultimate-fidelity Ellingtonia of 1959 and 1960, courtesy of these exciting audiophile reissues from ORG. The only drawbacks are the high prices of the 45 rpm pressings and the fact that you have to jump up every seven to ten minutes to switches sides—almost like the days of playing 78s.

These recording sessions date from the early days of stereo and suffer a bit from the exaggerated left/right separation that was the rule at that time.  I was hankering for my old Apt/Holman preamp that had a L-R knob on it, but boy, do those solos come right out and grab you, whatever channel they might be on! The sonics are strong and distinct, right in your lap, with better fidelity than any Ellington CDs, SACDs or standard LP pressings.

Just look at that list of band members: Dizzy Gillespie!, Ray Nance on both trumpet and violin!, Johnny Hodges in some glorious solos, and vocalist Jimmy Rushing on his terrific blues to close out the session: “Hello Little Girl.”  That closing and longest track also has a couple great trumpet solos on it. Nine tracks on the first of these two albums, and I think my fav is Ellington’s “U.M.M.G.”—Upper Manhattan Medical Group. Ellington’s own doctor from the group was even there at the recording session to hear it. This session was heavy on the percussion—look how many people participated in it. There were kettle drums and xylophones; the latter comes to the fore on “U.M.M.G.”  Though this was in the Columbia studio, an unexpected audience showed up, and they are heard after some of the tracks. The band was really hot this night, and it’s apparent on this wonderful collection of tracks.

TrackList:  Malletoba Spank, Red Garter, Red Shoes, Red Carpet, Ready Go!, U.M.M.G., All of Me, Tymperturbably Blue, Hello Little Girl.


The second session of about a year later is subtitled “Duke Ellington and his Award Winners.”  The recording session was at midnight due to  Duke’s busy schedule and fact the studio was hopping around the clock. Teo Macero was the producer, and writes in the notes about Duke’s dinner that he usually had around 2 AM: steak with lemon halves plus grapefruit and American cheese.

11 tracks resulted from this session, and there’s a couple of the band’s big hits this time: “C Jam Blues,” and “In a Mellow Tone.”  One of my favs is Billy Strayhorn’s “Smada,” with smashing solos by Ray Nance on trumpet and Johnnie Hodges on alto sax. Band member Mathew Gee provided two of the tunes here, one of them in collaboration with Ellington: “The Swingers Get the Blues Too,” and “The swinger’s Jump.” Mathew has a baritone horn solo stint on the first, and both Johnnie Hodges and Ray Nance do their thing on both tracks. The album’s title tune is a rather short little number featuring Ellington’s piano and the band, and the penultimate one on the session. (The CD reissue of this album has eight additional tracks, mostly alternate takes, but can’t hold a candle to the fidelity of these vinyls.)

Though the blues is part of the theme of this album, and of the titles of many of the tunes, the general feeling is of an uptempo, exciting big band treatment  as only Ellington can do it, of all 11 tracks. Some of us may be long in the tooth enough to actually still have an original 33⅓ LP of one of these. If so, you can astonish your audiophile friends with a little A/B comparison. The enhancement is almost shocking on a good turntable system.

TrackList:  Three J’s Blues, Smada, Pie Eye’s Blues, Sweet and Pungent, C Jam Blues, In a Mellow Tone, Blues in Blueprint, The Swingers Get the Blues Too, The swinger’s Jump, Blues in Orbit, Villes Ville is the Place Man.

—John Henry

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