Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington: Duke's Place (aka C Jam Blues)
The Great Summit / Complete Sessions / Deluxe Edition (Roulette/Blue Note 24546)
Mort Herbert (bass), Danny Barcelona (drums).
Composed by Ellington/Roberts/Katz/Thiele.
Recorded: New York, April 1961
Rating: 92/100 (learn more)
If you ever get the Blues in Paris, a visit to Duke's Place ("love that piano sound") will drop you off in Harlem, with azaleas and cottontails ya just can't forget, and the Satch master of trumpet to scat and snap and blow you smack out of those dull drums. Beginning to see the light? Feeling like a lucky so-and-so again?
Well, you owe it all to the Ellington-Armstrong lovefest that's come to be known as The Great Summit: those two perfect jazzmen together in a New York studio for several hours over two days in April 1961, crafting 17 classic performances amid a group of Armstrong All-Stars, the late-career recordings clearly not the elders' all-time best but timeless nonetheless. Especially notable are Louis's vocal adlibs on "Drop Me Off in Harlem" and his take-charge trumpet work on "The Mooche" (and the alternate version of "I'm Just a Lucky So-and-So" found on a surprisingly listenable second CD of outtakes and false starts); the Ducal pianistics on "Cotton Tail" and, indeed, supporting Armstrong everywhere; mellow-toned musicianship and meaningful swing from Trummy Young and the others; above all – the very antithesis of any mooche's mood indigo – Satch ushering you over the riffs into that C-jammed scene Chez Ellington, where saxes do their tricks, fellas dig their chicks, and everyone gets their kicks. As Duke ticks the keys to his note-limited, swing-limitless tune, the band climbs aboard the society-wide bus, and Louis... ah, Louis... the inimitable Satch takes you to a world where jazz conquers all. (If only we lived there.)
Reviewer: Ed Leimbacher