Duke's 70th birthday was celebrated in style with a jazz "who's who" at a White House gala, but this incredible event was not broadcast in the U.S., nor were its tapes commercially released. This CD unveils these 28 performances by Dave Brubeck, Earl Hines, Joe Williams and Duke himself among others; Duke's Pat piano piece, dedicated to Pat Nixon, has never been heard elsewhere!
Released for the first time on CD, this recording chronicles Duke Ellington's historic 70th-birthday tribute, held at the White House on April 29, 1969. Willis Conover of the Voice of America organized the event at which President Richard Nixon awarded Ellington with the Medal of Freedom. But the main course of the evening was the music of the Duke. With Ellington at the keyboard, the evening featured a who's who of the best of jazz: pianists Billy Taylor
, Hank Jones
, and Dave Brubeck
; alto and baritone saxophonists Paul Desmond
and Gerry Mulligan
; trumpeters Clark Terry
and Dizzy Gillespie
; and vocalist Joe Williams
. They pay homage to Ellington through a series of medleys that include "Take the A Train," "Satin Doll," and "In a Sentimental Mood." Duke Ellington concludes the star-studded celebration with a moving and impressionistic piece dedicated to Mr. Nixon's wife, entitled "Pat." It ends a beautiful evening where art and politics come together. --Eugene Holley Jr.