Blues in Orbit
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2004, Volume 11, #12
Written by John Metzger
Blues in Orbit doesnít contain any of Duke Ellingtonís best-known compositions, nor does it feature the elongated and complex orchestral suites that made him a hit among posh intellectuals. As a result, the album is an oft-forgotten nugget within his extensive catalog. A composite of sessions held in 1958 and 1959, the collection highlights various configurations of Ellingtonís touring ensemble, while spotlighting some masterful solo work by trumpeter Ray Nance, tenor sax player and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton, alto sax player Johnny Hodges, and trombonist Booty Wood as well as the bandleaderís own striking, if sometimes subtle, accompaniments. Overall, thereís a loose, free-spirited weightlessness to the performances, though they also retain the elegant charm that filled much of Ellingtonís work, and in each case, the resulting music is both atmospheric and lyrical. Highlights include the soulful groove of The Swingers Get the Blues and its furious counterpart The Swingerís Jump, the ethereal Blues in Blueprint, the spry C Jam Blues with Nance taking an imaginative turn on violin, and the haunted passageways explored so effectively by Wood on Sweet and Pungent. Padded with eight bonus selections, the updated rendition of Blues in Orbit sparkles brilliantly amidst the clarity of its remastered sound. Most of the extras will appeal largely to collectors, although the stirring beauty unleashed by Hodges on Sentimental Lady is magnificent, as is the previously unreleased alternate version of the title track on which Ellington embarks upon an edgy, explorative accompaniment that fully enhances the compositionís cosmic ambience. Ĺ
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box