Picks and Pans Review: Sophisticated Ellington
For the benefit of younger folks who’ve heard the sound track from the current Broadway hit Sophisticated Ladies (or 1976’s Bubbling Brown Sugar) and thought, “Hey, this songwriter Ellington shows promise,” here is a musical history lesson. The Columbia box-set series on the Duke, released in the early ’60s and now out of print, was more definitive. But this double LP includes tracks of Ellington’s peerless jazz orchestra from October 1927 to May 1966—more than enough evidence that rare genius was at work here. The album includes many of the band’s classics—Sophisticated Lady, Mood Indigo, Caravan, I Got It Bad, Solitude—most of them at least co-written by the Duke himself. There are a couple of dreary vocals by Al Hibbler and Ivie Anderson, but the album’s most serious shortcoming is the lack of a personnel roster. This is a particular shame because the Ellington sidemen included Cootie Williams, Barney Bigard, Harry Carney, Ben Webster and Johnny Hodges, all rare artists in their own right.