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1969 All Star Tribute to Duke Ellington

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Audio CD, August 27, 2002
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Product Description

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!

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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.
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (August 27, 2002)
  • Original Release Date: 1969
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Blue Note Records
  • ASIN: B00005UOKQ
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #276,974 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By Giuseppe C. HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2002
Format: Audio CD
As a collector of most things Ellingtonian, I had to have this album after hearing an NPR piece about the circumstances of the recording and its delayed release. It's pleasant enough, but not a CD that's apt to get much playing. The instrumentation is somewhat curious--6 horns plus rhythm section, and no tenor saxophone! Bassist Milt Hinton and drummer Louis Belson are the main constants, with the piano chair being rotated among no fewer than 5 pianists (but not Marian McPartland or Willie the Lion Smith, both of whom were in the audience, as were Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, and Billy Eckstein).
The proceedings, for the most part, have the feel of a jam session, with the instrumentalists taking turns playing songs from the Ellington universe in a number of medleys. At times the transitions are a bit rough, as the rhythm section has to work to find not just the right key but tempo as well. The only number that evidences any rehearsal is Gerry Mulligan's unusual, up-tempo arrangement of the complex harmonies of "Prelude to a Kiss."
Some highlights and low-lights. Paul Desmond is as close to perfection as you can get--maintaining his musical composure even when the Hank Jones/Milt Hinton accompaniment can't find the chords to the bridge of "Chelsea Bridge." Each of his solo turns is an inventive gem, and at one point he surprises with an unexpected Johnny Hodges imitation. The same could be said of trombonist J.J. Johnson, whose every note brings life to the occasion, whether he's soloing or providing fills. And of course, Clark Terry is his exhuberant, colorful self, making his horn provide the personable vocal effects that are the essence of the Ellington style.
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By A Customer on September 9, 2002
Format: Audio CD
This concert isn't all-star, it's all-legend, and the band is unbelievably hot. Listen to saxophonists Mulligan and Desmond go after each other, or trumpets Berry and Terry on "Just Squeeze Me". The pianists are a wonder, from Hank Jones' fine work through Brubeck's star turn and Billy Taylor in marvelous form on a medley. Then "Fatha" Hines sits down and blows them all away with "Perdido". Great stuff. Great, great stuff.
Singers Mayo and (especially) Williams end the evening with some touching vocal work. Everyone on this disc, and just check out that lineup again, is at the top of his (or her) game, in some of the greatest American music ever written.
So why was this concert not released domestically until now? Seems guitarist Jim Hall had a thing about Nixon (it was 1969, after all) and wouldn't sign the release until recently. Go figure.
Ah, but if only the tapes could have recorded the jam session following the concert, which went on until 3 am. Marion McPartland, Willie the Lion and a host of jazz greats were in the audience and each took a turn, or played duets with the Duke. Even the Marine Band joined in. Too bad it wasn't recorded.
But hold on, this was the NIXON White House. You don't suppose . . . .
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I first heard of this album during my search for renditions of Take the A Train and Satin Doll. I was in love after hearing the versions from this album and ended up buying the album from amazon. Worth every penny!
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I just love this recording. All of the Duke's greatest, signature hits, all in one place, recorded live at the White House, when "Tricky Dick" Nixon was president. What a hoot! It must have been one gala of a party, because you can hear the audience laughing and shouting throughout the recording, at obvious moments of hilarity that were going on during the music and between numbers. You can imagine some horn player making a sour face, or wiping the sweat from his brow after a solo, or Duke cutting up with the president's wife. I mean, I don't know what was going on, but this CD tells a story not just of Ellington's great musical life, but an eventful, fun night in the now distant late 60's. I just let my imagination take me where it wants to go when I listen to this CD, and I get a different sense of enjoyment every time I listen to it. This is a Blue Note recording, so you get very high quality sound, a superb band, and renditions that are true to the originals. I consider this a must have for any serious jazz music collector.
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