Duke Ellington & Ray Brown: Things Ain't What They Used to Be


Things Ain't What They Used to Be


Duke Ellington (piano) and Ray Brown (bass)


This One's for Blanton (Pablo OJCCD 810)

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Duke Ellington (piano), Ray Brown (bass).

Composed by Mercer Ellington & Ted Persons


Recorded: Las Vegas, November 5, 1972


Rating: 96/100 (learn more)

This recording, made 18 months before Ellington's death, aimed to recapture the magic of the Duke's 1939-1941 collaborations with bassist Jimmy Blanton. The selection of Ray Brown for Ellington's sparring partner here is inspired. Brown exemplified the Blanton tradition on bass, demonstrating it on a nightly basis with his big tone and solidly swinging walking lines. On "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," Brown fills up the soundscape, and provides so much rhythmic momentum that Ellington can cruise. I picture the pianist smiling, as if he has been given the chance to take the most turbocharged vehicle in the showroom out for a test drive. You could listen to a hundred piano-and-bass duets and struggle to find another example of two musicians locking together so completely in their groove. Hats off to Ellington and Brown, and also to producer Norman Granz who enticed Duke outside of the fortress of his big band and into a new setting where something fresh and different could happen.

Reviewer: Ted Gioia

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