Thursday, September 8, 2016

Analogue Productions' LP Reissue of Duke Ellington's Blues In Orbit

Man, I have a lot of music to review right now. The pile of CDs next to my laptop looks like three-hour old game of Jenga. My mystery source for some of the experimental jazz I've been reviewing has finally revealed itself--they had to ask for my new address because stuff kept shipping back to them. Once I confirmed my New York post office box, the new CDs starting coming in fast and furious-like, three and four at a time.

I also sent Morten Lindberg of 2L Recordings a note with my new address. I figured the same thing happened, that his latest recordings were being shipped from Norway, passing through customs, and then getting sent all the way back unclaimed. But Morten actually informed that he hadn't sent anything in a while because they were busy working on several new releases. Last week, all of them arrived at once!

Plus I keep discovering great new artists on Tidal, which in turn compels me to walk over to The Sound Garden record store here in Syracuse to see if they have it on vinyl. They usually do. My review of Michael Kiwanuka's Love & Hate should be appearing in Positive Feedback Online soon, and just yesterday I fell in love with Angel Olsen's My Woman and this morning I had to fetch Wilco's Schmilco. So I have some work to do.

This Ellington LP sort of fell through the cracks in the last few weeks. I bought it from the Acoustic Sounds website as sort of a consolation prize when they sold out of their Julie London reissues at the Newport Show last June. I ordered Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2, and I felt like getting one more. Hmmmm, I thought, what's the latest magical release from Chad Kassem's catalog? I turned out to be this one, Blues In Orbit. I was a little torn at first--Duke Ellington is one of my favorites in all of jazz, but I wasn't very familiar with this 1960 LP. I looked up some reviews and found that while it's considered a solid release in Ellington's catalog, it isn't really one of "the greats." But even a good Duke recording has to be better than the great albums of most, right?

I'm glad I purchased this one, however. It's not perfect--it has a very loose structure to it that was the result of two somewhat spontaneous late night/early morning live sessions at Columbia Studios on December 2, 1959. The overall sound quality is a bit veiled compared to some of Duke's classics. And I'm not in love with the rather stodgy variation on "Duke's Place" that landed here. But other than those minor complaints, this album swings like nobody's business. It's got a full, crazy and lively blues sound that will make your toes tap and your head bob. It also has moments where individual instruments LEAP out at you, almost in your lap--Ray Nance's trumpet, Booty Wood's trombone and especially Harry Carney's whimsical, breathy bass clarinet.

This one's a keeper, an instant classic for my demo stock at trade shows and such. It's the epitome of the late night blues album, captured on the fly, and overflowing with life and humor. If you don't believe me, listen to Ray Nance's wild, untamed violin solo on "C Jam Blues" and listen to the entire band laugh afterwards at the sheer audacity of it. It's a classic moment in a classic album.

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