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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Duke for Completists, 2 Jun 2007
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This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
It's sacrilege really giving the Duke any less than 5 stars I know. However, this collection was recorded - as it says on the box - between 1926 and 1949, and that's what you get, with all the sound quality issues that entails. By and large, they have done a great job with these recordings. However, you should know exactly what you are buying here. The Duke recorded many of these "Masterpieces" several times and some listeners might prefer his later recordings which went through various evolutions. Take Sophisticated Lady, recorded in 1933: are you hoping to hear the sumptuous sound of his 1966 orchestra - or the vocal dominated version he recorded in 1956? These recordings all predate the LP and the essence of each those brilliant compositions is here in its original compact 3 minute format. That said, this budget priced collection leaves very little out from the early years in which he established his reputation.

Oh heck. I just listened to In a Sentimental Mood Again.I'm giving it 5 stars after all. 93 tracks at about 10p a track for goodness sake. If you love Ellington, you'll need this collection some day
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hey presto!, 14 May 2006
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Colin Jones (Rhyl, North Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
Those prestidigitators at Proper Music have pulled out of their hat some wonderful box sets, and this one is arguably the best. Here we have 93 recordings by the Duke Ellington Orchestra made between 1926 and 1949. The selections are carefully chosen - every significant or particularly well-known title seems to be here - and they are sensibly presented in chronological order. The discs are packed in small cardboard sleeves within the box, which includes a 52 page illustrated booklet tracing the development of the orchestra. The booklet gives personnel details and recording dates. The remastering is sharp and clear, and the package as a whole is an unbeatable introduction to the music of Duke Ellington. Sheer magic.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent masterpieces, 5 Aug 2009
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Dennis Baron (Lancashire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
For many years I have been searching for early and mid-period Ellington recordings that are not distorted by surface noise. These masterpieces from 1926-49 are magnificently clear,with only a little surface noise on the earliest recordings. Almost all of the tunes are masterpieces and I particularly like the orchestration of "Daybreak Express" and the swing of "Cottontail" to name but two. Every jazz fan should have these recordings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of the early Duke, 18 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
If one wishes to find the best of Duke Ellington's work, one need only acquire a handful of recordings; the work of his blanton-webster band is (alongside Count Basie's Decca recordings) the greatest big band jazz ever recorded. That music is available on a 3 disc compilation called 'never no lament', and has suitably been accorded both a crown and core collection status in Penguin's guide. The set covers the period 1940-42, and that greatest of big bands sadly came to a premature end with the death from TB at the tender age of 23 of its brightest star, the bassist Jimmy Blanton.

Add to this Duke's famed live concert recordings from Fargo (1940) and Newport (1956) and you will arguably have all that you need. What none of these discs cover though are a generous handful of ellington's classics, such as take the A train, the early version of the black and tan fantasy and indeed a host of other numbers to emerge from his fruitful partnership with billy strayhorn. Throw in those, add a healthy dose of ellington's indispensable work at the cotton club and you have this 4CD set, in my opinion just what you need to complete your core collection of ellington recordings. As such, it deserves no less than 5 stars.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best place to start, 20 Oct 2012
By 
S. J. Turner "simon24187" (Carlisle) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
I purchased this CD collection quite a while back. Looking back now I definitely made a very good choice.

What is so great about this collection is it cherry picks many seminal recordings of most of Ellingtons classic compositions from this period. The choice has not been restricted as many other Ellington compilations are to one particular label. Particularly in the earlier stages of his career Ellington and his orchestra did multiple recordings of each major composition for different labels, often under different pseudonyms. Understandably the tunes evolved and particular recordings are better than others.

These CD's offer a great opportunity to get familiar with the absolute classic compositions Ellington made with his massively infuential early line ups. A practical advantage of the CD's is they have all the titles available for read out on CD players which is particularly useful if you are playing them in the car as initially you may well be overwhelmed by 93 compositions on this collection.

As far as sound quality this is an issue particularly of the early recordings. I admit I was puzzled reading about how much effort Ellington made in relation to sound quality in the studio compared with for example Fletcher Henderson as some of the earliest recordings sound a bit like they were recorded down a toilet. I now realise that to make this collection affordable various sources have been used and they are of variable quality. The sound quality however substantially improves from Bojangles onwards and is very good for the seminal Blanton Webster recordings.

There are compilations with much better sounding early recordings particularly Early Ellington and the Complete RCA Centennial Edition but they are no longer available so are very pricey and are restricted to particular labels so they are nowhere as good a starting point as this complilation for someone to dip their toe into the Ellington ocean to see what its like.

If you love what you find you can work on the sound quality later with either the later recorded versions or the more expensive high quality compilations like those on Mosaic later. All of the recordings are studio based with the exception of Pussy Willow which comes from the classic Fargo concert. If you asked me for my favourite tracks on this compilation I would struggle there are just too many. Better option is just to buy it instead.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Ellington - a genius., 20 Sep 2013
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A wonderful selection of the music of the greatest writer and purveyor of jazz of all time. Fabulous all through
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10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars OH MY, 1 Dec 2005
This review is from: Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) (Audio CD)
So much Duke In one set!!.Anyone who wants to get into jazz or likes good music should buy this set.Amazing value for money a real treat for all us Duke fans.
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Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD)
Masterpieces: 1926-1949 (4CD) by Duke Ellington (Audio CD - 2001)
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