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Ellington's very best (six stars),
This review is from: Blanton-Webster Band (Audio CD)
This collection still stands out as a prime example of how jazz (which was music, according to the Duke) and swing (which was business) could be mixed together in an amalgam that produced some of the most satisfactory musical sounds to emanate from any stylistic period. And while most "complete" editions also come with the inevitable lows of redundancy and the obligatory Tin Pan Alley dullards, this set seems happily exempt from any second rate material.
Most of the recordings show the band in its most favourable light: after years of working together, playing the demanding and often highly unusual Ellington scores, there was an unbelievable team spirit and cohesiveness, while new blood (by Blanton, Webster and, lest we forget, Billy Strayhorn) added to the already impressive roster of soloists such as Brown, Nanton and Tizol on trombones; Williams (soon to be replaced by Ray Nance) and Stewart on trumpet / cornet; Bigard, Hodges and Carney on reeds, all of such strong individual creativity that this specific orchestra ranks among the greatest of all time.
The set comes with extensive liner notes (a short synopsis of the band's history and a resumé of each featured track) and full discographical info; remastering is very good indeed.
No one who is seriously interested in jazz/swing or the history of popular music should be without this set.