Duke Ellington: The Reprise Studio Sessions


By Alan Goodman 

“Ellington’s main Reprise period includes “Afro-Bossa” (1963), which ranks among the best albums he ever made. “The Symphonic Ellington” (1963) has considerable historical importance, presenting for the first time two large-scale works-“Night Creature” and “Harlem”-in their original scoring for jazz band and symphony orchestra.” – Mark Tucker, liner notes

Duke Ellington Recordings
From the Later Stages of His Remarkable Career

Ever since we sold out our set of rare and neglected Capitol recordings by Duke Ellington, we’ve been searching for another collection of largely overlooked material from this extraordinary figure in the history of music. The kind of stuff that isn’t often mentioned in essential discographies but, once you’ve heard it, makes you wonder how it could have been forgotten.

We finally found what we were looking for.

In 1962, Ellington accepted an offer from Frank Sinatra to join his newly formed Reprise label. Sinatra had in mind a boutique label for Ellington that could present the incomparable Duke as an artist and a producer with full artistic freedom.

Diversity. And then some.

Ellington produced albums by Dollar Brand, Bud Powell and Alice Babs, but it was his own music of this period that would live on. And it includes a number of treasures, but the crown jewel is the famous Afro-Bossa album (“the exotic album” it was referred to on the original tape boxes), twelve pieces with a pan-Afro-Latin sensibility. Duke Ellington used his tonal palette to full effect on this masterpiece. From Billy Strayhorn’s rich “Absinthe” to the Calypso undercurrent of “Purple Gazelle” to the “jungle band” high clarinets and growling brass of “Moonbow”, this is Ellington at his nost all-encompassing and best. Two trio medleys of this suite by Ellington are commercially issued here for the first time.

During the same sessions, the orchestra recorded two albums worth of signature tunes from the great big bands that were once Duke’s competition, all arranged from the unique Ellington/Strayhorn perspective. Ellington’s band with the symphonic orchestras of Milan, Paris, Stockholm and Hamburg explore important works like “Night Creature” and “Harlem” on “The Symphonic Ellington”. Ellington’s “jazz violin album” featuring Svend Asmussen, Stephane Grappelli and Ray Nance with members of the band was made during the same European tour.

Three studio albums (“Ellington ’65”, “Ellington ’66” and “Mary Poppins”) highlight the incredible arranging ability of Ellington and Strayhorn as they turn sow’s ears into silk purses with the considerable contributions of soloists Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney (the supreme saxophone section), Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson and Lawrence Brown and the creative drive of Sam Woodyard’s drums.

The Reprise era closes with “Concert In The Virgin Islands”, which is in fact a studio album of new compositions, old favorites and some wonderful blues. The album marked Ray Nance’s final appearances with the Ellington organization.

The diversity of the music, recorded from 1962 to 1965, is a testament to Duke Ellington‘s ability to hear a little more and a little better than most of us. It’s especially noteworthy that toward the end of the period covered by these recording and leading up to his death in 1974, Ellington was simultaneously writing and performing important liturgical scores, displaying yet another side of his deep need to experiment and explore.

You’ve never heard these songs like this.

The songs and settings included here are more proof of Ellington’s (and Billy Strayhorn’s) technique of writing for the individual performers within the band, giving their compositions and arrangements a quality that made them inimitable, even if others got hold of their charts. That’s especially apparent when you hear the more popular songs in this collection, songs you’ve heard thousands of times, but never like this.

“Duke Ellington: The Reprise Studio Recordings” includes 81 recordings on 5 CDs. The box set includes photographs from the Stanley Dance archives and an extensive essay by Ellington scholar Mark Tucker.


(A) Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Roy Burrowes (tp), Ray Nance (tp or cor, vln), Lawrence Brown, Chuck Connors, Buster Cooper (tb), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (cl, as), Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bari, cl, bass cl), Duke Ellington (p), Ernie Shepard (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
Universal Studios, Chicago, November 29, 1962

3220-4      Christopher Columbus       SD-1665
3221-4      Let’s Get Together                   –
3222-6      Goodbye                          RS-6168

(B) same as (A).
Universal Studios, Chicago, November 30, 1962
3223-5                 Chant Of The Weed                     SD-1665
1706-14 (3224)     Volupte                                      R9-6069
3225-3                 I’m Gettin’ Sentimental Over You  SD-1665
3226-2                 One O’Clock Jump                       RS-6168
3227                    Afro Bossa                                  rejected

note: It is possible that the November 29 & 30 sessions were indeed one long session that ran past midnight.

(C) same as (A) except add Eddie Preston (tp).
Fine Studios, NYC, December 11, 19623368          Tuxedo Junction                RS-6168
3369          Ciribiribin -1                      SD-1665
3370-10     It’s A Lonesome Old Town
When You’re Not Around          –

-1 Billy Strayhorn (p) replaces Ellington.

(D) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, December 13, 19623381-8      Minnie The Moocher    SD-1665
3382-12    Sentimental Journey    RS-6168

(E) same as (A) except Bill Berry (tp) replaces Cootie Williams.
Fine Studios, NYC, December 14, 19623388-6      When It’s Sleepy Time Down South  RS-6168
3389         For Dancers Only                            SD-1665
1711-16?   Eighth Veil                                     RS-6069

(F) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, December 20, 19623383-8      Rhapsody In Blue    RS-6168
3384-2      Contrasts               SD-1665
3385-5      Sleep                     RS-6168
1704-21    Caline (Silk Lace)    RS-6069
1710-10    Pyramid                       –

(G) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, December 29, 19623386-5      Don’t Get Around Much Anymore      RS-6168, RS-6234
3387-3/7   Auld Lang Syne                              SD-1665

(H) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, January 3, 19633377-15     The Midnight Sun Will Never Set      SD-1665
3378          Woodchoppers Ball                        RS-6168
3372-11     Artistry In Rhythm (arr-BS) -1               –

-1 Billy Strayhorn (p) replaces Ellington.

(I) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, January 4, 19633371-5      Smoke Rings (arr-BS) -1           RS-6168
3373         The Waltz You Saved For Me           –
3375         Cherokee                                SD-1665
1709-1      Bonga                                     R9-6069

-1 Billy Strayhorn (p) replaces Ellington.

(J) same as (A).
Fine Studios, NYC, January 5, 19631699-8      Angu -1             R9-6069
1708-6      Afro-Bossa               –
1700-16    Purple Gazelle          –
1701-9      Absinthe -2              –
1702-3      Moonbow                 –
1703-11    Sempre Amore         –
1707-45    Tigress                    –

-1 add Billy Strayhorn (mandolin piano)
-2 Billy Strayhorn (p) replaces Ellington.

(K) Duke Ellington (p), Ernie Shepard (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
Fine Studios, NYC,  January 8, 19631705      Resume #1         previously unissued
1712      Resume #2 -1                 –

-1 aural evidence suggests that Billy Strayhorn may also be playing on sections of this piece.

(L) same as (A) except Chuck Connors switches to b-tb; and add The Paris Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Gerard Calvi.
Salle Wagram, Paris, France, January 31, 19632435-12     Night Creature : Dazzling Creature      R9-6097
2438-14     Harlem                                                –

(M) same as (L) except The Stockholm Symphony Orchestra replaces The Paris Symphony Orchestra.
Solna-Sundbyberg, Sweden, February 8, 19632433-5  Night Creature: Blind Bug               R9-6097
2434-4  Night Creature: Stalking Monster          –

(N) same as (L) except The Hamburg Symphony Orchestra replaces The Stockholm Symphony Orchestra.
Hamburg, Germany, February 14, 19632436  Non-violent Integration   R9-6097

(O) Cootie Williams (tp)-1, Lawrence Brown (tb)-1, Russell Procope (cl)-1, Paul Gonsalves (ts)-1, Duke Ellington (p), Ernie Shepard (b), Sam Woodyard (d) and The La Scala Symphony Orchestra.
Milano, Italy, February 21, 19632437      La Scala, She Too PrettyTo Be Blue      R9-6097

-1 solos were dubbed in at a later session.

(P) Stephane Grappelli, Ray Nance (vln), Svend Asmussen (vla), Duke Ellington (p), Ernie Shepard (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
Barclay Studios, Paris, France, February 22, 19633527      Take The A Train                            SD-1688
3528      Tricky’s Licks -1                                    –
3529      Blues In C -1                                       –
3523      Limbo Jazz -1                                      –
3524      Pretty Little One -1, -2                          –
3525      String Along With Strings -1, -3              –
3526      The Feeling Of Jazz -1                          –
3530      In A Sentimental Mood -4                      –
3531      Don’t Get Around Much Anymore -5         –
3532      Day Dream -6                                       –
3533      Cotton Tail                                           –

-1 add Buster Cooper (tb), Russell Procope (as), Paul Gonsalves (ts)
-2 Billy Strayhorn (p) replaces Ellington
-3 add Billy Strayhorn (p)
-4 omit Nance and Asmussen
-5 omit Nance and Grappelli
-6 omit Grappelli and Asmussen

(Q) Cat Anderson, Rolf Ericson, Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones (tp), Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (tb), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (as, cl), Jimmy Hamilton (ts, cl), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bari), Duke Ellington (p), Major Holley (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
NYC, April 15, 19645017      Call Me Irresponsible        RS-6122
5022      The Second Time Around        –
5023      Never On Sunday                   –
5025      Blowin’ In The Wind                –

(R) same as (Q).
NYC, April 16, 19645018      Fly Me To The Moon        RS-6122
5019      So Little Time                      –
5021      More                                  –
5026      Stranger On The Shore         –

(S) same as (Q).
NYC, April 27, 19645016      Hello, Dolly!                                 RS-6122
5020      Danke Schoen                                  –
5024      I Left My Heart In San Francisco         –

(T) same as (Q) except Peck Morrison (b) replaces Holley.
NYC, May 19, 19645093      People                              RS-6154
5094      The Good Life                          –
5095      Charade                                  –
5096      I Can’t Stop Loving You             –

(U) Cat Anderson, Nat Woodard, Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones (tp), Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper, Chuck Connors (tb), Johnny Hodges (as), Russell Procope (as, cl), Jimmy Hamilton (ts, cl), Paul Gonsalves (ts), Harry Carney (bari), Duke Ellington (p), John Lamb (b), Sam Woodyard (d).
Universal Studios, Chicago, September 6,8&9,19642948      A Spoonful Of Sugar                    RS-6141
2949      Stay Awake                                      –
2950      Feed The Birds                                 –
2951      Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious         –
2952      Let’s Go Fly A Kite                             –
2953      Chim Chim Cheree                           –
2954      Sister Suffragette                             –
2955      The Perfect Nanny                            –
2956      I Love To Laugh                              –
2957      The Life I Lead                               –
2958      Step In Time                                  –
2959      Jolly Holiday                                   –

note: Tenor saxophonist Eddie Johnson replaced an ailing Paul Gonsalves on probably the last of these sessions.

(V) same as (U) except trumpet section is Cat Anderson, Mercer Ellington, Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones, Ray Nance.
NYC, January 19, 19655097      Moon River                     RS-6154
5098      All My Lovin’                         –
5099      Days Of Wine And Roses       –
5100      Satin Doll                            –

(W) same as (U) except trumpet section is Cat Anderson,  Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones, Ray Nance.
NYC, January 21, 19655101      Red Roses For A Blue Lady       RS-6154
5102      I Want To Hold Your Hand            –
5103      A Beautiful Friendship                   –
5104      Ellington ’66                                –

(X) same as (U) except trumpet section is Cat Anderson,  Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones, Ray Nance.
Fine Studios, NYC, March  4, 19653393         Chelsea Bridge    RS-6185
3394-1      The Opener              –
3397-2      Fade Up                   –

(Y) same as (U) except trumpet section is Cat Anderson,  Howard McGhee, Herbie Jones, Ray Nance.
Fine Studios, NYC, March 17, 19653374-1      Things Ain’t What They Used To Be      RS-6185
3382-1/8   Jungle Kitty                                             –

(Z) same as (U) except trumpet section is Cat Anderson,  Cootie Williams, Herbie Jones, Ray Nance, Richard Williams.
Fine Studios, NYC, April 14, 19653224-3      Big Fat Alice’s Blues         RS-6185
3376-3      Island Virgin                          –
3379-2      Virgin Jungle                          –
3380-2      Fiddler On The Diddle             –
3395-4      Mysterious Chick                    –
3396-8      Barefoot Stomper                  –

Album Index:
Reprise R9-6069  Afro-Bossa
Reprise R9-6097  The Symphonic Ellington
Reprise RS-6122  Ellington ’65
Reprise RS-6141  Mary Poppins
Reprise RS-6154  Ellington ’66
Reprise RS-6168  Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?
Reprise RS-6185  Concert In The Virgin Islands
Reprise RS-6234  Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits
Atlantic SD-1665  Recollections Of The Big Band Era
Atlantic SD-1668  Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin SessionOriginal sessions produced by Duke Ellington
Produced for release by Michael Cuscuna
Executive producers: Charlie Lourie & Matt Pierson
Three-track mixes, two-track transfers and mastering by Malcolm Addey
All selections, except Disc One #8, are stereo

Special thanks to Scott Wenzel, Jerry Valburn, Dana Watson and the Institute Of Jazz Studies

Design direction: Richard Mantel
Design production: InkWell, Inc.
Photo research: Cynthia Sesso

Producer’s note:
The three-track master of “Ciribiribin” on Disc One has a gap in it. For the selction, the mono master has been used on this and all previous issues. The image shifting during the solos on “Fade Up” on Disc Five are in the original master.
The big band retrospective material, which was spread over two LPs, opens this set and is presented in the order in which it was recorded. In all other cases, the album sequence from the original Reprise releases has been preserved.
Although it is not actually an orchestra album, we’ve included “Duke Ellington’s Jazz Violin Session” because it is a unique piece of Ellingtonia for which we had the space. Reprise did not receive or retain any of the alternate takes to the 1963 violin session, although discographies list some alternate takes and false starts issued on the Swedish label Azure.
The remaineder of March 4, March 17 and April 14, 1965 sessions from which the “Concert In The Virgin Islands” album was drawn apparently remained Ellington’s personal property. Other selections from these sessions were issued volumes eight and ten of his Private Collection series in the ’80s.
Ellington’s live recordings for Reprise are well-documented on the Atlantic 2-CD set “Paris Concert” and not repeated. here.