Duke Ellington: The Tattooed Bride


The Tattooed Bride


Duke Ellington (piano)


Masterpieces by Ellington (Columbia/Legacy 87043)

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Duke Ellington (piano), Cat Anderson (trumpet), Harold 'Shorty' Baker (trumpet), Nelson Williams (trumpet), Fats Ford (trumpet), Ray Nance (trumpet), Quentin Jackson (trombone), Lawrence Brown (trombone), Tyree Glenn (trombone), Mercer Ellington (French horn), Russell Procope (clarinet), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Jimmy Hamilton (clarinet), Paul Gonsalves (tenor sax), Harry Carney (baritone sax), Billy Strayhorn (piano), Wendell Marshall (bass), Sonny Greer (drums).

Composed by Duke Ellington


Recorded: New York, December 18, 1950


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

Ellington was ahead of his time, and not just for preferring his brides with tattoos. This extended piece, premiered by the Ellington band at Carnegie Hall in 1948, ranks among the Duke's most daring works, with its advanced harmonic language and dramatic mood shifts from somber introspection to hard-edged swing. Ellington's first LP, Masterpieces, gave him the chance to present this 12-minute work on record without interruption not possible with the earlier 78 format and the composer delights in his newfound freedom. Three minutes into the piece, the rhythm section disappears, and the horns engage in an avant-garde dialogue that gets wilder and wilder until the band returns cooking like a McDonald's crew at lunch hour. But Ellington soon brings down the energy level, and plays around with a host of "hear-a-pin- drop" effects. Not for long . . . Ellington returns to hard and heavy swing to close out the proceedings. What a bride! Jimmy Hamilton, Cat Anderson and others solo with aplomb, but the star here is Ellington's chart, which still sounds fresh and invigorating more than a half century after it was written.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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