Sathima Bea Benjamin (with Duke Ellington): Solitude




Sathima Bea Benjamin (with Duke Ellington)


A Morning in Paris (Ekapa Records SA 004)

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Sathima Bea Benjamin (vocals), Duke Ellington (piano), Svend Asmussen (pizzicato violin), Johnny Gertze (bass), Makaya Ntshoko (drums).

Composed by: Duke Ellington and Eddie DeLange


Recorded: Paris, February 23, 1963


Rating: 89/100 (learn more)

This recording sat unreleased for 45 years -- and only came to light when writer David Hajdu secured a tape while researching his Billy Strayhorn biography, Lush Life. Benjamin had introduced Ellington to the music of Dollar Brand (later Abdullah Ibrahim), and Duke arranged for recording sessions for both artists, with hopes that they would be issued on Frank Sinatra's Reprise label. The Dollar Brand LP came out to acclaim and helped establish that musician as a preeminent pianist, but Sinatra reportedly nixed the Benjamin tracks because he doubted their commercial prospects.

Fans may come to this performance because of the novelty of Ellington serving as a sideman, but the real draw here is Benjamin. Ellington does not solo, and even his comping is obscured by the pizzicato violin of Asmussen. But Benjamin offers a beautiful, heartfelt version of this classic ballad that brings out all of its lovelorn ambiance. No frills here, just an intense reading of a great song -- and a version that must have pleased the composer enough to entice him to join in.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia


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