Dishonest to give a whole hearted welcome to this ‘lost’ album: the music is wonderful; the presentation poor; it is the integrity that is lost.’

The Lost Recordings TLR2204041

Duke Ellington: Live At The Berlin Jazz Festival 1969-1973 – The Lost Recordings

1973 Piano Improvisation No.1; Take The “A” Train; Pitter Panther Patter; Sophisticated Lady; Introduction by Baby Laurence; Tap Dance

 1969 La Plus Belle Africaine; El Gato; I Can’t Get Started; Caravan; Mood Indigo; Satin Doll; Meditation (51.20)

1973  Ellington (p); Joe Benjamin (b); Rocky White Jr; (d); Harold “Money” Johnson (t); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Harry Carney (bar, cl). Berlin Philharmonic, 2 November 1973.

1969 Ellington (p); Cat Anderson, Cootie Williams , Mercer Ellington (t); Harold Ashby (ts); Paul Gonsalves (ts); Johnny Hodges (as); Harry Carney (bar, cl); Rufus Jones (d). NOTE Wild Bill Davis (org), Russell Procope (cl) and Victor Gaskin (bass) are not listed in personnel. Berlin Philharmonic, 8 November, 1969.

The vogue for ‘lost’ recordings continues.  Not all lost recordings are worth considering.  Soon there will be another ‘lost’ Coltrane album released. Some lost recordings are substandard; some are like buried treasure; some are dubious; some do not reward the players or their estates; some presentations are just shoddy grubby and shabby. On this album the notes are incomplete, inaccurate and written in a verbose, overwrought style. Wild Bill Davis does play in 1969 but is not credited.  Ellington acknowledges his presence a number of times. The complete 1969 concert has been floating round the internet for some years, hardly lost. The producers simply hacked some content from the complete concert.

Any music by Ellington is valuable. But it is inexcusable for a company to treat the work of one of the great jazz artists in a perfunctory way.  He is one of the giants of the music.

The recordings in 1969 and 1973 are towards the end of the great orchestra’s life. Indeed, Ellington died just a few months after the 1973 recording. The singing of Tony Watkins in 1973 (not included here) caused heckling from the Berlin audience and Ellington stopped the concert. However, one of the most intriguing 1973 pieces is the ‘Piano Improvisation No.1’.  It is pure Ellington, full of his unique piano style, a reminder of Ellington’s skill as both composer and pianist.  He is accompanied by bassist Joe Benjamin and drummer Rocky White in the concluding section.  It is made sadder when it is realised that Benjamin who was much younger than Ellington died in a car crash in January 1974 only weeks after this recording and shortly before the Duke.  This is one of Benjamin’s last recordings.

Benjamin plays on ‘Pitter Panther Patter’ a piece that Ellington played with his first great bass player Jimmy Blanton in 1940.  It is a light hearted piece with a relaxed, joyous, humorous nature brought out by both pianist and bassist.

The great piece of the 1969 recording is ‘La Plus Belle Africaine’.  Ellington composed it for the band’s appearance in Dakar Senegal.  As Ellington jokingly says ‘after writing African music for twenty-five years.  It is one of the greatest pieces of Ellington’s last decade: simple and profound and it features Harry Carney at the heart of it.  Bass player Victor Gaskin also has a crucial role in the piece so it is inexcusable his presence is not acknowledged.

The most unusual piece is the tap dance interlude by Baby Laurence.  Laurence insists that tap is another form of percussion and the sound bears out his assertion. ‘Satin Doll’ in 1969 was played at every concert as a feature for Wild Bill Davis with high notes from Cat Anderson.  The sombre ‘Meditation’ which was played at the end of the 1969 concert is yet another example of Ellington’s range and genius.

It would be dishonest to give a wholehearted welcome to this ‘lost’ album: the music is wonderful; the presentation poor; it is the integrity that is lost.