This was Duke Ellington's first film score, undertaken at the urging of Anatomy of a Murder's director, Otto Preminger. The full range of the composer's previous work was brought to bear on this 1959 work. Ellington was a natural choice to convey the rich and varied emotional moods of this drama. Tension and release, danger and safety, movement and stillness, darkness and light; the textural palette that was Ellington's signature was always compellingly cinematic.
In these orchestral settings, Duke's soloists (Cat Anderson, Clark Terry, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and others) shine, as their playing reflects true variations on a theme in a classical sense. That's not to say that this set doesn't swing, too – "Happy Anatomy" is a short but fully cranked gallop. This is an album of rich variety and evocative writing.
Awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966, Duke Ellington called his music "American music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond" category. He remains one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music and is widely considered one of the 20th century's best composers and band leaders. Ellington's reputation has increased since his death in 1974, with thematic repackagings of his signature music often becoming best sellers. Posthumous recognition of his work include a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board. This 1956 session features Ellington and 14 sidemen performing updated recordings of some of the best from Ellington's career going back to 1926.
Duke Ellington was constantly composing new material as well as creating new arrangements of vintage works, as heard on this Columbia LP recorded in 1959. "Perdido" is an extended feature for Clark Terry's virtuoso flügelhorn, though this would be his final studio session as a regular member of the Ellington band. "Copout Extension," a longer version of an earlier work called "Copout," showcases marathon soloist Paul Gonsalves on tenor sax. Among the new pieces, the three-part suite "Duael Fuel" features drummers Jimmy Johnson and Sam Woodyard, though the piece was dropped from the band book after 1960.(Ken Dryden - AllMusic Guide, rated 4 out of 5 star)