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Never No Lament the Blanton-Webster Band Box set

4.2 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Box set, April 1, 2003
$68.65

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Jimmie Blanton, Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams the 1940-1942 Ellington Orchestra might just be the best big band ever. Using masters from the Grammy-winning Duke Ellington Centennial Edition , this set collects that band's masterpieces- Take the "A" Train; Cotton Tail; Warm Valley; I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good; Sophisticated Lady; Chelsea Bridge; Perdido , et al.-plus Blanton/Ellington duets and selected alternate takes. Best-ever sound quality, too!

Amazon.com

This 75-track, three-CD set from Duke Ellington's RCA dates from 1940 to 1942, was culled from the massive, 1999 Bluebird mega-set. It's named for bassist Jimmy Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster. Blanton's astonishing technique made him one of the greatest bass players of all time, and Webster's warm, raw-boned tenor tones inspired future saxophonists. Along with the famous Ellingtonians, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, trumpeter Cootie Williams, violinist Ray Nance, and trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton, the addition of Blanton and Webster, along with the arrival of composer/arranger/pianist Billy Strayhorn, make this aggregation Ellington's first "superband."

All the vivid and varied dimensions of Ellingtonia are included in this digitally remastered set, with songs written by his son, Mercer. There's Ellington's silky blues numbers such as "Jack the Bear" and "C-Jam Blues." The Puerto Rican valve trombonist Juan Tizol's "Conga Brava," "Moon Over Cuba," and "Bakiff" contribute Latin and Middle Eastern colors. "Harlem Airshaft" and "Sepia Panorama" are but two examples of Ellington's tonal portraits. The legendary Ellington/Blanton duets, with the bouncy "Pitter Panther Patter" and the emotive "Sophisticated Lady" still sound modern. Webster's surging, pre-bop solos drive the George Gershwin-based "Cottontail," and soulfully signature Strayhorn's ballad "Chelsea Bridge." This set also marks the introduction of other Strayhorn's classics, including "Take the 'A' Train" and "Johnny Come Lately." All told, these World War II-era sides are essential for the Ellington canon. Eugene Holley, Jr.

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Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 1, 2003)
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Format: Box set
  • Note on Boxed Sets: During shipping, discs in boxed sets occasionally become dislodged without damage. Please examine and play these discs. If you are not completely satisfied, we'll refund or replace your purchase.
  • Label: RCA
  • ASIN: B00008J2IX
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,390 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Amazon's Duke Ellington Store

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is some of Ellington's most important music and it has finally been properly reissued. Contrary to what the previous review says, this is the best sound quality imaginable for these recordings:; clear, crisp and clean...unlike the previous reissues of this set. Maybe he needs to check his equipment, because from my stereo this sounds like Duke and his boys are playing in my living room. Yes, there is some high end buzz at times, but it is not bothersome and it is necessary to glean out the wide dynamic range. I have seriously been waiting for these recordings to be reissued in this manner for a few years (not being able to outright afford the mammoth 30 disc box set from which these remasters were taken from) and I am so overjoyed by it as it lives up to my every expectation. If you have these recordings in another form, this is well worth the reinvestment. If you are new to Ellington's recordings, then this is exactly where to start to understand why this man was, without a doubt, the greatest American composer ever. If Louis was jazz's greatest voice, Duke is jazz, and America's, greatest writer.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
These selections are widely recognized as among the most important recordings in the history of jazz, and rightly so. Included are the definitive versions of many of Ellington's (and his associates') most inspired compositions, performed by one of the greatest bands ever assembled. The musicianship is superb throughout, with absolutely stunning solo and ensemble work on track after track, particularly on the instrumental selections that make up the bulk of the set.

To my ears, the sound quality is astonishingly good. I've been listening to this material on various other compilations (Bluebird's "Blanton-Webster Band," the relevant volumes in the Melodie Jazz Classic label's "Chronological Classics" series, an RCA "Jazz Tribune" set, etc.) for years, and I'm amazed at how much better this issue sounds than any of those. It's true that there's a bit of surface noise, but as one other reviewer has already noted, the problem with noise reduction is that when it's used to excess (as on the Bluebird set, for example), it strips away a lot of the music along with the noise. Here, where the remastering has been done much more judiciously, the improved clarity, detail, presence, and tonal range more than compensate for the slight increase in extraneous background noise. The result is, to my ears, a stunning improvement in overall sound quality.

This is an extremely well-produced reissue that belongs in the collection of anyone with an interest in Ellington, or in big-band jazz in general.
Comment 25 of 25 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
First, thanks to those who have shared their thoughts on the sound quality of this set in reviews and/or review comments. I've had the set for about 5 days now and would like to add what I can. Disclaimer: I'm no audio engineer and a couple others here seem far more knowledgable in all this than I am.

1. The distortion many are complaining about, especially on Jack the Bear, was present on the early Blanton-Webster set as well. I've had the privilege of direct comparisons between a few songs. The difference is, on the old set it was buried under layers of sucked out frequencies and No-Noise and therefore less noticeable but at GREAT expense to the music. (A lot of folks here know how abysmal the old set sounds.) So, I very much agree with reviewer Comic Online that the source of the distortion/harshness in this set is not a result of the remastering, but a result of the condition of the actual masters, be them damaged or what have you.

2. The sound on this set really is AMAZING. The music is alive, the air is open, the dynamics are powerful. I also want to acknowledge the quality of bass on this release. It's powerful and tight. This remastering does Blanton a true service. Yes, the occasional distortion and harshness in the high frequencies in this set is a shame and it may take you some of the first day of listening to adjust, but given what the context seems to be, it's either that or the kind of sound on the old Blanton-Webster set.

3. I disagree that the sound "gets better" on discs 2 and 3. I find nothing wrong with the sound to begin with and hear no discernable differences as the set plays on.
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Format: Audio CD
I won't echo what's been said about how great this stuff is- it's just great, some of the best jazz ever recorded. That said, I can't easily abide by music of this caliber being packaged in a cheap, flimsy cardboard contraption that doesn't even list all the tracks on the back. Just taking a disc out to listen to it is an exercise in delicacy and restraint, lest you accidentally tear the thing apart.

Still, this is worth purchasing if you're an Ellington fan. I haven't heard the 1980's CD release of this collection, but I had a Glenn Miller one from the same era and label, and the music sounded like it had been filed down with sandpaper- no body, no depth. The distortion on some of disc one's tunes in this set is annoying, but the rest of it sounds great. The exceptions are probably due to poor source recordings, so what can you do? I'd much prefer a few crackles than hear music that's been compressed down to nothing.

In short, I'd say this is worth the money, but look for it used first. I'm sure Bluebird will be reissuing it for a third time in the not-too-distant future, so why pay full price now?
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