Duke Ellington, BigBands Live (Jazz Haus)
Watching the Ellington band perform in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the listener was likely to be struck by the contrast between the sidemens’ laconic demeanor and—on a good night—the joy of their performances. March 6, 1967 was a good night at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany. Beautifully recorded, the concert combines famous and barely known pieces. Good humor reigns in the ensemble performances, passion in the solos. Trumpet star Cootie Williams of the great 1940–‘41 band, back in the fold, soars, slides and growls through “Tutti for Cootie” and “The Shepherd.” Harry Carney’s baritone saxophone solo on “La Plus Belle Africaine” is a highlight. There is impressive work by Paul Gonsalves, Russell Procope, bassist John Lamb and Ellington. Alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges is magnificent on Billy Strayhorn’s “Blood Count,” for unexplained reasons retitled “Freakish Lights.” This is a jewel in the impressive Jazz Haus catalog of live recordings.