No one can deny the beauty of Duke Ellington's music of the 1930s and 40s, yet not to pay similar respect to his masterworks of the 1950s would be scandalous. It was during this time that Ellington embraced the long-playing album with a passion and sense of invention, and released one brilliant recording after another.
While some of the giants were gone from the band, the names that appeared with Ellington during the decade were great: Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Clark Terry, Ray Nance and Harry Carney among others, as well as Duke's right hand man, composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn. Taking advantage of the instrumental riches at their disposal and the additional space offered by the LP, Ellington and Strayhorn began thinking in terms of ambitious expanded projects.
The initial Columbia album, Masterpieces By Ellington, found the maestro embracing the new technology, displaying grand arrangements of his popular anthems. Other visionary projects soon followed: Ellington Uptown, featuring the masterful composition, "Tone Parallel To Harlem"; Blue Rose with singer Rosemary Clooney; Such Sweet Thunder, a Shakespearian adaption; Black, Brown and Beige with majestic contributions from Mahalia Jackson; and Anatomy of a Murder, with music written for the hit film, among them. Each of these albums, as well as other jewels including Ellington Indigos, Blues In Orbit and A Drum Is A Woman, brim with marvelous melodies, sumptuous arrangements, glistening solos and exceptional ensemble work from all involved.
Consider just a handful of the contemporary gems to be found on these albums: "The Star-Crossed Lovers," "The Tattooed Bride," and "U.M.M.G." -- and there are dozens more to be found. The 1950s, it turns out, was just one more golden era for the Duke.
Box Set Includes:
1. 1951 -- Masterpieces By Ellington
2. 1952 -- Ellington Uptown
3. 1956 -- Blue Rose w/ Rosemary Clooney
4. 1956 -- The Drum Is A Woman
5. 1957 -- Such Sweet Thunder
6. 1957 -- Ellington Indigos
7. 1958 -- Black, Brown And Beige w/ Mahalia Jackson
8. 1958 -- Duke Ellington At The Bal Masque
9. 1958 -- Duke Ellington's Spacemen: The Cosmic Scene