Do I really need another live recording of the Duke, and from this fallow period in his career?
The liner notes inform us that "Jazzhaus is a new music label. It presents audio and video recordings of live performances from the archives of Sudwestrundfunk in Stuttgart, Baden-Baden and Mainz, Southwest Germany... The SWR archives are possibly the most comprehensive reservoir of unpublished live jazz recordings worldwide: 3,000 hours of footage in stunning sound quality and featuring over 400 ensembles and soloists..."
I cannot comment on any other Jazzhaus releases. All I can say is that in the case of this 1967 recording of the Duke and His Orchestra, Jazzhaus have delivered on their extravagant promise. It's not a set-list that I would have chosen: Swamp Goo, Eggo, La Plus Belle Africaine, Rue Bleue, A Chromatic Love Affair, Salome, Tutti For Cootie and Kixx are not very interesting compositions in themselves. What makes this set worth getting is that it presents these minor pieces in the best possible light. Yes, the sound quality is stunning, and Ellington always strikes me as a man who will rise to the occasion: give him decent surroundings to work in and he will reward you.
"'Johnny Come Lately' breaks the ice", we are informed. Try out Amazon's MP3 sample and you'll see what this means. As the orchestra makes its entrance, it becomes clear that the 1967 model needed time to get up a head of steam. When the orchestra does get into its stride, a good time is had by all. There's a very nice balance which highlights the efforts of two players in particular: John Lamb on bass and the piano player himself, who is in fine fettle.
'Knob Hill' and 'Freakish Lights' are better known as 'Mount Harissa' and 'Blood Count' respectively. These are songs that would make it onto my wish list. I'm awarding five stars in spite of the inclusion of the dreadful 'Kixx', 10 minutes and 24 seconds that make me wonder how a man as richly talented as Ellington could have been prepared to allow himself such appalling lapses of taste.
Do I really need it? I would say that no self-respecting collector of live Ellingtonia can be without this one, and I'm now off to check whether other Jazzhaus recordings similarly live up to their promise.