Duke Ellington: Black and Tan Fantasy (OKeh)


Black and Tan Fantasy (OKeh version)


Duke Ellington & His Orchestra


The OKeh Ellington (Columbia 46177)

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Duke Ellington (piano), Jabbo Smith (trumpet), Louis Metcalf (trumpet), Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton (trombone), Harry Carney (reeds), Rudy Jackson (reeds), Otto Hardwick (reeds), Fred Guy (banjo), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).

Composed by Bubber Miley


Recorded: New York, November 3, 1927


Rating: 97/100 (learn more)

Ellington's growing musical maturity from the 1920s through the 1940s is one of the most remarkable stories in the history of jazz. At the time of "Black and Tan Fantasy," Duke was still in the early stages of this unprecedented evolution, but already we see his ability to craft a distinctive musical mood, to tell a story through the medium of his band. Here he presents a late-night dreamscape, both menacing and alluring, one that must have drawn many patrons back to the Cotton Club, where Duke had recently started his four-year stint leading the house band. Trumpeter Bubber Miley helped craft this memorable piece, both as composer and through his solo efforts. But on this date, 18-year-old Jabbo Smith -- a near-legend of 1920s jazz -- subs for Miley, and handles the trumpet chores with aplomb. One wonders what Smith might have accomplished had he accepted Ellington's offer to join the Cotton Club band. Duke completists will want to compare this track with the Brunswick and Victor versions, each featuring Miley.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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