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The Piano Player – Duke Ellington

The Piano Player - Duke Ellington Artist: Duke Ellington
Album: The Piano Player
Release Date: July 12, 2005
Duration: 01:07:29
Genre: Jazz
Styles: Big Band, Swing
Recording Date: March, 1961 – May 11, 1971

Although it was not unknown for Duke Ellington to record a piano solo during a studio session or concert on occasion, he never indulged himself in featuring himself unaccompanied throughout an entire album. But over three decades following his death in 1974, Storyville has compiled no fewer than 13 tracks featuring Ellington alone at the piano. The solo tracks, mainly recorded by the maestro at his own expense as part of his personal stockpile (documenting the evolution of new compositions, new arrangements, or just experimenting at times), come from various sessions between 1961 and 1970.

Two versions of the lovely, ruminating ballad “Meditation” are heard. One comes from the very first date that he formally recorded an example of it (it is also the longest in existence) and a later one dates from a visit to Paris in 1967. Another pretty ballad, “Single Petal of a Rose” (written for the “Queen’s Suite”), was part of a 1962 television broadcast. Ellington scholars will be challenged by the unidentified title (a moody ballad) that is heard as a medley with a fragment of “Fleurette Africaine (Little African Flower).” The exotic “Nagoya” was later incorporated into the longer composition “Ad Lib on Nippon” as a part of “The Far East Suite.” His hesitant playing in spots indicates that this is still a work in progress. Ellington’s suite “The River” was commissioned as a ballet by Alvin Ailey, though the composer was late in getting together the final orchestration for the company to begin rehearsals.

So he recorded a solo piano performance of the entire ballet, then a complete orchestrated version a few weeks later, though neither version was ever released during his lifetime. The final three tracks, all likely impromptu blues, add organist Wild Bill Davis, bassist Joe Benjamin, and drummer Rufus Jones. Primarily a compilation for serious collectors of Duke Ellington’s music, this CD is full of intriguing music that will be like a gourmet meal to Ellington connoisseurs.

Title/Composer Performer Time
Meditation 1 / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 5:17
Single Petal of a Rose / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:56
Blues #1 / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:37
Nagoya / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 8:10
/Little African Flower (Fleurette Africaine) / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 1:31
Meditation 2 / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 4:48
T.G.T.T./Little Purple Flower / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 6:39
The River – A Ballet Suite: The Spring / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 3:20
The River – A Ballet Suite: The Run / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:46
The River – A Ballet Suite: The Meander / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:36
The River – A Ballet Suite: Grap (The Giggling Rapids) / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:48
The River – A Ballet Suite: The Lake / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 3:38
The River – A Ballet Suite: Stud (The Neo-Hip-Hot Cool Kiddies Community) / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 2:27
Riddle Duke Ellington 7:03
Blues #2 / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 6:49
Blues #3 / Duke Ellington Duke Ellington 4:04
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