Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit (1959)

FrontCover1Still riding the success of his triumphant concert at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Duke Ellington in 1958 decided to reduce his touring orchestra to a nonet dubbed “the Spacemen,” and recorded this lone project with them for the Columbia label, here reissued by Mosaic Singles and heard in stereo for the first time. Perhaps inspired by the first orbiting satellites, Ellington is not taking cues from George Russell or Sun Ra, whose extraterrestrial inspirations led them to even more progressive paths. This large ensemble is playing mostly standards, but the arrangements and solos carve an integrated yet elasticized concept that allows for a more expanded role for the ensemble’s trombonists Quentin “Butter” Jackson, John Sanders, and Britt Woodman, and select soloists. One in the solo spotlight is Clark Terry on flugelhorn exclusively, putting his fabled trumpet aside. The classic material presented includes clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton’s features “Avalon” and “Early Autumn,” the slinky stripper pole blues version of “St. Louis Blues” with Ellington’s piano taking the lead, and two versions of “Body & Soul,” with tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves completely extrapolating and re-harmonizing the main take, while faithfully playing the original melody on the alternate selection. There’s a modified “Perdido,” an animated and perky “Midnight Sun” that deviates from any other slow and lugubrious version of the ballad, and two attempts of “Jones” — the first a real good swinger, the second with a more unified horn chart accented by a New Orleans shuffle provided by drummer Sam Woodyard. There are two originals; the blues bass of Jimmy Woode and the ‘bones with plentiful piano from Duke infusing “Bass-Ment,” and one of the more delightful of all of Ellington’s book, the poppin’ and boppin’ “Spacemen,” a bright happy horn chart led by Terry that is one of the more distinctive Ellington numbers of this time period. Perhaps in many ways a neglected recording in the vast annals of Ellingtonia, fans will certainly welcome this long out of print re-addition to the master’s CD discography. It comes highly recommended. (by Michael G. Nastos)

Cat Anderson (trumpet on 10. – 12., 18 – 19.)
Shorty Baker (trumpet on 10. – 12., 18 – 19.)
Harry Carney (saxophone)
Duke Ellington (piano)
Matthew Gee (trombone on 01. – 09., 13. – 17.)
Paul Gonsalves (saxophone)
Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet, saxophone)
Johnny Hodges (saxophone on 01. – 09, 11. -17.)
Jimmy Johnson – drums on 01. -09., 13. 17.)
Ray Nance (trumpet, violin)
Russell Procope (saxophone, clarinet)
Clark Terry (trumpet on on 10. – 12., 18 – 19.)
Botty Wood (trombone on 01. – 09., 13. – 17.)
Jimmy Woode (bass)
Britt Woodman (trombone)
Fats Ford (trumpet on 11.)
Quentin Jackson – trombone on 10. – 12., 18. – 19.)
John Sanders (valve trombone on 10. – 12., 18 – 19.)
Billy Strayhorn piano (on 02. + 07.)
Sam Woodyard (drums on 10. – 12, 18. – 19.)

01. Three J’s Blues (Hamilton) 2.54
02. Smada (Ellington/Strayhorn) 2.38
03. Pie Eye’s Blues (Ellington) 3.27
04. Sweet And Pungent (Strayhorn) 4.03
05. C Jam Blues (Ellington/Bigard) 4.52
06. In A Mellow Tone (Ellington/Gabler) 2.43
07. Blues In Blueprint (Ellington) 3.43
08. The Swingers Get The Blues, Too (Ellington/Gee) 3.09
09. The Swinger’s Jump (Ellington) 3.5
10. Blues In Orbit (Strayhorn) 2.29
11. Villes Ville Is the Place, Man (Ellington) 2.33
12. Track 360 (Ellington) 2.03
14. Sentimental Lady (Ellington) 4.02
15. Brown Penny (Ellington/La Touche) 3.02
16. Pie Eye’s Blues (alternate take) (Ellington) 3.32
17. Sweet And Pungent (alternate take) (Strayhorn) 3.52
18. The Swinger’s Jump (alternate take) (Ellington) 3.51
19. Blues In Orbit (alternate take) (Strayhorn) 2.39
20. Track 360 (alternate take) 2.01



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