I have just come from a screening of a new film Duke Ellington Live In ’58.
Obviously, it’s not new. This is a DVD by the Jazz Icon folks, a buried treasure that was recently discovered, capturing an amazing performance of the Ellington orchestra in Holland, Amsterdam during a 1958 European concert tour. The audio and video quality are superb, the music and the musicians top notch, a classic performance that reveals all of the Ellington marvels. A revealing glimpse at Sir Duke, as a sophisticated, charming, larger than life musician, who just happened to be an exceptional band leader, composer and arranger, as well as a great pianist.
Jazz Icons have produced a slick, professional package, with wonderful liner notes that detail very clearly what transpired during the concert and through consultation with Ellington historians, surviving band members and family, a little of the history leading up to, surrounding and after the performance. This adds immensely to the viewing experience, especially the educational experience, this is a very special resource for anyone with even the slightest interest in jazz.
The DVD includes twelve songs and one medley that is made up of an additional ten Ellington songs, an eighty minute concert of shear delight. The Ellington Orchestra perform with flawless efficiency, serious professionalism and incredible amounts of passion and skill throughout the entire concert. The medley is one of the many highlight moments of the concert that actually opens with a little bit of a medley, condensed versions of "Black & Tan Fantasy," "Creole Love Song," and "The Mooch." If you are like me you will be reeled in as soon as Ray Nance takes a solo on muted coronet, followed by Harry Carney on baritone saxophone, with a tone that is simply delectable.
And the call to Johnny Hodges, that’s the hook that grabs on tight, one of the sweetest sounding alto players takes to the front of the stage and blows fantastic lyrical lines for the song "All Of Me" and with a quick bow launches into the next number, "Things Ain’t What They Used To Be." With smooth fluidity and beautiful, melodic playing, Hodges continues to solo building in intensity, ending the song and the first set with a flourish.
Other magical moments include Ray Nance singing, dancing, and playing violin and coronet. Clark Terry, most likely the youngest member of the band, who’s featured during "Harlem Air Shaft," an intense statement, the vocalizing of Ozzie Bailey, a most touching performance during "Solitude." The whaling interval, as Duke Ellington liked to say of Paul Gonsalves’ time to shine, his dynamic solo for "Diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue" an awesome performance. Duke Ellington Live in’58
is a classic performance, from a very fresh and exciting big band.