Saturday, 19 June 2010

2. Duke Ellington: The Bubber Miley Era 1924 - 1929


The album captures some of the very early work of Duke Ellington and the various bands he was in at that time. This includes the very first recordings of The Washingtonions, The Kentucky Club Orchestra, The Cotton Club Orchestra and finally Duke Ellington and His Orchestra. Featuring prominently is Bubber Miley whose use of the plunger mute gave rise to the so called jungle sound of the time.

The earliest recording is an acoustic one from 1924. "Choo Choo" features Miley's trademark growl although it is somewhat restrained belying what was to come later. The song features an old fashioned banjo sound and uses sound effects that tip the hat to the work of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Of course no collection of early Ellington or Bubber Miley would be complete without the triumverate of "Black & Tan Fantasy", "East St Louis Toodle-oo" and "The Mooche", of which I spoke of in the blog. There are other gems though. "Jubilee Stomp" is a great song and a good example of early walking bass and slap technique. Ellington's piano playing is also wonderful on this track. "Hot & Bothered" demonstrates how talented each individual member of Ellington's bands were. "Sweet Mama" involves some serious wah sounds from Miley's trumpet, a precursor for what Hendrix would be doing on this guitar 40 years later. "Tiger Rag Pts I & II" are almost a 1920's jazz opus - something that would have covered two sides of a 78rpm disc.

Not everything on the album stands the test of time though, in my opinion. "Diga Diga Doo" has a very old fashioned vocal line that is rooted firmly in the 20's, for example.

Overall however this album gives us a very good feel for what Duke Ellington was trying to do fron very early on. He was extremely innovative and a pioneer for the swing/big band era that was to follow in the 1930's. These tracks give us an insight into his early genius with his sidekick, Bubber Miley.

1. Choo Choo.
2. Birmingham Breakdown.
3. Hop Head.
4. Creole Love Call.
5. Black And Tan Fantasy.
6. Washington Wobble.
7. East St Louis Toodle-Oo.
8. Sweet Mama.
9. Black Beauty.
10. Jubilee Stomp.
11. Diga Diga Doo.
12. Swampy River.
13. Mooche.
14. Hot & Bothered
15. Louisiana.
16. I Can't Give You Everything But Love.
17. Bandanna Babies.
18. I Must Have That Man!
19. Tiger Rag Pts I & II.
20. Flaming Youth.
21. Saturday Night Function.

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