Reissue with latest remastering. Comes with liner notes. One of the first albums to ever issue recordings made at the Newport Jazz Festival – quite a big hit, and the beginning of a real trend in jazz! The set's also some great work by Duke – free to perform in a setting that's not bound by some of the time restrictions of earlier years, which lets him offer up three long tracks with a great deal of sophistication over previous recordings. Due to bad mike placement on stage, the original "live" album was actually a studio re-creation; the actual live performance was never issued-until now. This 2-CD set contains the complete original album and the hour-plus concert. More than 100 minutes of new music, and the whole thing's in stereo for the first time!
One of the greatest live jazz festival recordings ever has gotten better, and more interesting as well, with this 1999 reissue, a result of the kind of effort that most record companies normally won't even discuss. Ellington's original 1956 Newport album was his best-selling long-player ever, and re-established him, after a two-year drought in the wake of his unsuccessful stay at Capitol, as a vitally popular jazz artist, perceived as worth courting by the major labels. But that record was, in keeping with Columbia's standard operating proceedure of the day, a cut-and-paste job made up of studio re-recordings of the festival's repertory.
This two-DVD set includes several rare films featuring Duke Ellington in several different settings. Disc one documents his first appearance in the French Riviera at the Côte d'Azur in July 1966, with the pianist making intermittent commentary via voice-over between some selections. While the leader is stuck with an obviously substandard piano (with a horrid muddy bass range) and an outdoor setup that is not conducive to getting ideal sound, Ellington, being an old pro, does his best to make do with the conditions.
This two-LP set lives up to its title. First Duke Ellington and his orchestra are heard in 1952 during a period when they were being overlooked by the jazz media but still producing a great deal of worthy music. The second half of this release is taken from a European tour in 1965 and features some prime late-period playing from trumpeter Cootie Williams.
Now that Duke Ellington had regained his former commercial success with his performance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, he was free for the remainder of his career to essentially play what he pleased. This live performacne from ranges from old favorites like "I Got It Bad" and "Sophisticated Lady" to the spectacular Britt Woodman trombone feature on "Theme Trambene," the whimsical "Pretty and the Wolf," a fresh rendition of "Harlem Air Shaft" featuring trumpeter Clark Terry and the extended "Harlem Suite." Baritonist Harry Carney, high-note trumpet wizard Cat Anderson and altoist Johnny Hodges all have their great moments on this enjoyable set.