This Saturday morning, bright and still after a dull, drab, and flipping awful week, I’ve come over all spontaneous. This, friends, is my ‘Hello Weekend!’ soundtrack and I’m enjoying it so much I decided to share.
Everyone even remotely interested in the history of popular music and its antecedent, jazz, knows the name Duke Ellington. As composer, band leader, pianist and all round legend, Ellington contributed countless tunes to the ‘standard’ jazz repertoire across six decades. For those who enjoy statistics, he took home fourteen Grammys, notched up four partners, and raised one child.
Ellington recorded for RCA Victor, Okeh, Brunswick… in fact, almost every label operating in the 20s and 30s. Later in his storied career the span was equally impressive: Verve, Prestige, Reprise, Pablo, United Artists, even ‘contemporary’ jazz label Impulse! This, of course, was not uncommon in jazz. Artists recorded when and with whom they could; the long association of Miles Davis with Columbia was the exception rather than the rule. That peripatetic recording journey means jazz compilations are often varied and interesting affairs.
None more so than Impulsively Ellington! A Tribute To Duke Ellington, released on the famous orange-spined label in 1999. This wonderfully curated two-CD set covers the major bases of Duke’s career, offering a dazzling array of jazz performers and some enlightening versions of tunes associated with the man himself. The artwork is pretty cool too.
Johnny Hodges slinks and swings, Shirley Scott grooves at her organ, McCoy Tyner brings his unique talents to the ivories. From Benny Carter to Archie Shepp, Impulsively Ellington! is a fabulous intro to both the Duke and jazz in general. And for those already aficionados of the music, it’s like a Christmas stocking crammed full of delights, especially the multiple takes on several Ellington classics (three Cotton Tails, two Caravans, two Moods Indigo). Not a dud track amongst the twenty-eight cuts.
If you come across this compilation in your travels, don’t hesitate. An Impulse! can be a very good thing.
Do you have a compilation album that cheers you up after a tough week? Do share.