Although not initially released until 1992, 25 years after composer Billy Strayhorn's death, this is his definitive CD. Strayhorn is heard singing "Lush Life" while backed by the Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1964 (his voice is not strong but his phrasing is quite sincere), jamming on piano with flügelhornist Clark Terry and Bob Wilbur (on clarinet and soprano) in a quintet, backing singer Ozzie Bailey, and taking a pair of piano solos ("Love Came" and "Baby Clementine"). These are very valuable and intriguing recordings, shedding some new light on a nearly invisible genius.
Blues in Orbit is an album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded for the Columbia label in 1959 and released in 1960.
When Billy Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967, Duke Ellington was devastated. His closest friend and arranger had left his life full of music and memories. As a tribute, Ellington and his orchestra almost immediately began recording a tribute to Strayhorn, using the late arranger's own compositions and charts. The album features well-known and previously unrecorded Strayhorn tunes that showcased his range, versatility, and, above all, the quality that Ellington admired him most for: his sensitivity to all of the timbral, tonal, and color possibilities an orchestra could bring to a piece of music. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
"Blues in Orbit" seems to get overlooked when Ellington's best albums are discussed, but it is a real keeper. There are 11 tracks, none of them is longer than 4:50 and it is all good stuff. There are some familiar favorites like "In a Mellotone" and "C Jam Blues" as well as less often heard gems like "Blues in Blueprint and "Sweet and Pungent".
The featured performers include Ellington stalwarts Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, Harry Carney and Jimmy Hamilton, as well as the less familiar Booty Wood and Matthew Gee. Johnny, in particular is well showcased here, taking the lead in the rousing, "Smada", which is probably my favorite track. Ray shines on his trumpet, but also gets to play the violin on "C Jam Blues". [customer review on a music store website]
Each box contains 25 slipcase CDs, a booklet (up to 186 pages) and an index. The booklets contain extensive notes (Eng/Fr) with recording dates and line-ups. 31 hours of music in each box, totalling 1677 tracks Each track has been restored and mastered from original sources. The only reason I can think of for there not yet being a review of these four boxed sets, is that those who own them are just too busy having one hell of a blast listening to them. Some people moan about the 50 year copyright law for audio recordings in Europe, but without it this highly entertaining, eye-opening and educational undertaking could never have taken place. These 100 discs (spread over four boxed sets of 25 discs) tell the story of jazz from 1898 to 1959.
Duke Ellington was the most important composer in the history of jazz as well as being a bandleader who held his large group together continuously for almost 50 years. The two aspects of his career were related; Ellington used his band as a musical laboratory for his new compositions and shaped his writing specifically to showcase the talents of his bandmembers, many of whom remained with him for long periods. Ellington also wrote film scores and stage musicals, and several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards.