I have always considered the 1950s to be Duke Ellington's golden recording period. After spending the `30s and `40s recording some of jazz's defining moments, with some of the greatest 3 minute dance tracks ever laid down, he then spent most of the `50s recording longer suites of music. Using the new medium of the 33 1/3 LP format he was able to record complex and lengthy jazz tracks, re-recording some of his old dance numbers and making them into superb jazz concertos.
In 1957 he hearkened back to the old days, recording this set of rather snazzy short tracks. Rather surprisingly, mixed in with re-recordings of well known Ellington tunes are a series of famous American dance hall tunes written by other people, with tunes from Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart, among others. Ellington and his orchestra, by now a finely honed unit working in perfect synchronicity with each other, treat all the tunes with a distinct reverence, turning out twelve elegant tracks of mid tempo jazz. When Ellington recorded other people's work he often chose music that was beneath him (`The Duke plays with the score of Mary Poppins', or `Ellington 65' for example), but here the tracks are well chosen, and worthy of his attention.
As usual with Ellington at his best there is an air of style and elegance. The mood is one of romance, wine and roses. Each tune is perfect for the last dance, the slow quiet romance at the end of the ball. The whole record is just right for a quiet evening in with a special someone and a bottle of good wine. It's a real triumph.