June 13, 2012
Storyville Records

Album Review

The 16th volume of Duke Ellington's Treasury Shows from the World War II era contain two complete programs, in addition to excerpts of other transcribed broadcasts from earlier in the decade. When Ellington was given this opportunity to gain exposure for his band, when the Musician's Union recording ban kept him out of the studio, he was able to build his audience while showing his patriotism, assisting the U.S. government in the sales of war bonds, and reading several fundraising scripts during the show. A typical program included hits, pop songs, new compositions, and occasional guests. Both shows are from November 1945; although the war was over, bond sales were still emphasized to pay for care and rehabilitation of wounded veterans, rebuilding efforts overseas, and to keep inflation down with the sudden increase in the money supply. The pristine condition of the source transcription discs and excellent recording make these shows of special interest to Ellington collectors. One of the highlights of the first show include "Frustration," a feature for Harry Carney's robust baritone sax that remained in the band book for 15 years, though performed only sporadically. "9.20 Special," penned by Count Basie tenor saxophonist Earle Warren as a feature for Coleman Hawkins, marks the leader's affinity for train songs, having written a few of his own. Johnny Hodges' "Crosstown" was premiered on this occasion, though this playful jump tune disappeared from the book after a few performances. Ellington's "Cottontail" had a long life in his repertoire; it premiered in 1940 and played until the end of his career. The tenor soloist on this version is the relatively unheralded Al Sears, who fills Ben Webster's shoes very well, in addition to an energetic trumpet solo by Cat Anderson. The second show, recorded the following week, is marked by two personnel changes: the arrival of the accomplished bassist Oscar Pettiford and the loss of star trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton, who had suffered a stroke. Pettiford shines in the solo spotlight of "Jack the Bear," written as a show piece for bassist Jimmy Blanton, whose career and life were cut short by tuberculosis. The pop song "I Can't Begin to Tell You" offers an opportunity to hear Carney's skills as a bass clarinet soloist. This Treasury broadcast ends after roughly a half-hour, evidently truncated by a football broadcast. The remaining material comes from various air checks in 1943 and 1945, though the audio quality isn't at the level of the Treasury Shows. The notable tracks include the exotic "Bakiff" featuring Ray Nance on violin, and a romp through "Ring Dem Bells." But the brief (and sometimes interrupted) songs, along with a dreadful, condescending interview of Ellington by a hapless announcer, make these portions less noteworthy.
Ken Dryden, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Take the 'A' Train/Broadcast Intro
  2. Just A-Sittin' and A-Rockin'
  3. Take the 'A' Train (Theme)
  4. 9:20 Special
  5. Frustration
  6. Ellington Bond Promo
  7. Jennie
  8. Dancing in the Dark
  9. Crosstown
  10. Passion Flower
  11. Bond Promo
  12. Victory Drive
  13. Get on Board Little Children
  14. Take the 'A' Train (Theme)/Broadcast Return
  15. Black, Brown & Beige (Come Sunday, Light)
  16. Ellington Bond Promo
  17. 11:60 P.M.
  18. Tell It To a Star
  19. I Ain't Got Nothin' But the Blues
  20. Cotton Tail
  21. Waiting For the Train To Come In
  22. Star Spangled Banner/Broadcast Closing
  23. Subtle Slough
  24. Main Stem
  25. Bakiff
  26. Take the 'A' Train (Theme)/Broadcast Intro
  27. Walking With My Honey
  28. Jack the Bear
  29. Autumn Serenade
  30. Ellington Bond Promo
  31. Tell It To a Star
  32. Hey Diddle Diddle
  33. I Can't Begin To Tell You
  34. How Deep is the Ocean
  35. The Wonder of You
  36. Victory Drive
  37. As Long As I Live/Broadcast Closing
  38. Take the 'A' Train
  39. Interview With Duke Ellington
  40. The Canteen Bounce
  41. Perdido
  42. Interview With Duke Ellington
  43. Hayfoot, Strawfoot
  44. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
  45. Interview With Duke Ellington
  46. A Slip of the Lip
  47. Things Ain't What They Used To Be
  48. Interview With Duke Ellington
  49. Ring Dem Bells
  50. Moon Mist
  51. C Jame Blues
  52. It Don't Mean a Thing
  53. Tonight I Shall Sleep
  54. Ring Dem Bells
  55. Don't Get Around Much Anymore
  56. Things Ain't What They Used To Be