An undervalued gem from the late '50s, this album finds Duke painting many different shades of blue as he returns to classics like C Jam Blues and In a Mellow Tone . Includes three bonus tracks and five bonus alternate takes!
The atmospheric, floating quality (see title) of the production and the mysterious, airy, and sparse arrangements make this album an overlooked gem in the Ellington catalog. Two of the tracks were cut in 1958 utilizing the full 15-piece orchestra: the slow-moving blues of the title track, where the leader's eerie piano fills answer the statements of the full band, and "Track 360," a dramatic aural representation of a train wreck. The remainder of the CD (minus one other track) was recorded with slightly smaller configurations at two midnight sessions in December of the following year. Ray Nance (the only trumpet because of band restructuring) and especially Johnny Hodges offer the most rewarding solo contributions of the date, many of which stand alongside their best ever. Hodges's magnificently fragile and seductive alto graces "Brown Penny" and handles both delicate and driving passages with aplomb on Billy Strayhorn's "Smada" (with the composer in the piano chair) while Nance belts out the bridge. The band also revisits earlier classics from the Ellington songbook: Nance shows his violin prowess on "C Jam Blues" before growling through "In a Mellotone"; "Sentimental Lady" is in Hodges's capable caress. --Marc Greilsamer