Featuring: Duke Ellington (piano) , Louis Armstrong (vocals, trumpet), Trummy Young (trombone), Barney Bigard (clarinet), Mort Herbert (bass), Danny Barcelona (drums)
Blue Note Records
I used to work at a great new & used record store (Newbury Comics, for those in the New England area). It was a total blast–part old school used record store, part quirky, trendy whats-it shop. But before I start waxing sentimental…
One day I was shelving CDs in the jazz section when I came across this album. A glance at the cover was all I needed to know that I’d found something awesome. I ran to the back room and grabbed my wallet and purchased the album on the spot. When I got home and popped it into the stereo I was not disappointed.
Up to that point in my, what would you call it, jazz journey? Too hokey? Anyway, up until that point I had enjoyed a lot of Duke Ellington’s work, and I had enjoyed a lot of Louis Armstrong’s work, but never the twain had met. Here they are together, and it is most excellent.
This album features recordings (digitally re-mastered from the originals) taken from the only collaboration between the Duke and Louis, The Great Summit, recorded in April 1961 in New York. (The whole of the Summit session, including outtakes, was released as a double album by Blue Note in 2000.)
This album has got something for everyone (see below for the track listing as Exhibit A to prove this claim). There are some upbeat vocal classics and some melancholy ones, all featuring Armstrong’s uniquely expressive vocals. There are some excellent instrumental pieces with Ellington’s signature orchestrated jazz that sound crisp and energetic–featuring the odd solo to keep the feel of the all-important improv aspect of the genre.
-I’m Just a Lucky So and So
-Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me
-The Beautiful American
-Black and Tan Fantasy
-Drop Me Off at Harlem
-In a Mellow Tone
-It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)
-Don’t Get Around Much Any More
-I’m Beginning to See the Light
-Just Squeeze Me
-I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) (Live)
See? This isn’t just a great album, it’s part of America’s cultural heritage.
The Bottom Line: My all-time favorite jazz album, ever. It always cheers me up, no matter what. It’s one of my go-to albums for any occasion with people of varying musical tastes–holiday parties, road trips, etc., because it is something everyone can enjoy casually. And for the jazz aficionado, it’s a great album to sit down with a cup of coffee/a martini and really get stuck-in.
P.S. – Just for the record, Danny Barcelona is an awesome name for a jazz drummer. Don’t think I’m going out on a limb here…