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satkinsn
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Joined: Aug 19 2008 - 4:23am
Ellington - Smithsonian sets

When I first got very serious about jazz, I lusted after - but couldn't afford - a series of lps from the Smithsonian that documented Duke Ellington in 1938, 39 and 40.

Instead, a while later I got "Braggin' in Brass," the Columbia collection of the 1938 band.

It was overshadowed by "The Blanton-Webster Band" on RCA, but I have always had a soft spot for the 1938 band. It was lighter, poppier maybe, but I wouldn't trade a dozen or so of the performances.

Or maybe it's knowing what the band was about to become; the 1938 orchestra was to the Blanton-Webster years as "Off The Wall" is to "Thriller."

Anyway, I found the 38, 39 and 40 Smithsonian collections on ebay, relatively cheap, and bought them. (Which is the point of this note - if you listen to jazz on vinyl, pick these up while they can be found at a reasonable price.)

First note: the plain black and white pictures on the covers are great, as are the extensive liners. It was typical 70s-80s Smithsonian packaging, which was excellent.

Second note: I forget just how deep and luxurious this music is - as many other people have observed, there's a whole world in Ellington. I don't believe music makes you a better person, but if it could, this would be the stuff.

Scott A.

jazzfan
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Re: Ellington - Smithsonian sets

Hi Scott,

You're quite right about the excellent quality of the Ellington Smithsonian records. I have the 1940 and 1941 sets (each one is a two disc set). The 1941 features amazing liner notes written by Gary Giddins, who is perhaps the best jazz writer of the past 25 years. Before the flood of Ellington reissues brought about the CD reissue craze of the past 20 years, the Smithsonian sets where the only way could get to hear most of these wonderful recordings.

I also have two LPs on the Alamac label: Duke Ellington - 1941 Classics (QSR 2404) and Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra (QSR 2439) which contain recordings made in Hollywood during 1941. i have no idea if these recordings have ever reissued on CD. According to the rather sketchy liner notes, the recordings from September 17th, 1941 were the last ones to feature the great bassist Jimmy Blanton. However there is no indication of just tracks where recorded on a given date. But hey, at least the records were cheap back when I picked them up: $2.99 apiece.

satkinsn
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Joined: Aug 19 2008 - 4:23am
Re: Ellington - Smithsonian sets

Hey jf -

I have never heard of the Almanacs, or the material on them, but being from 1941 obviously they're right at the heart of things.

Please, do tell me more.

tks,

s.

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