Duke Ellington: Rockin' in Rhythm


Rockin' in Rhythm


Duke Ellington (piano)


The Very Best of Duke Ellington (RCA Victor)

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Duke Ellington (piano), Barney Bigard (clarinet, tenor sax),

Cootie Williams, Arthur Whetsol, Fred Jenkins (trumpets), Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol (trombones), Johnny Hodges (alto sax), Harry Carney (clarinet, alto sax), Fred Guy (banjo), Wellman Braud (bass), Sonny Greer (drums)


Composed by Duke Ellington, Harry Carney & Irving Mills


Recorded: New York, January 16, 1931


Rating: 91/100 (learn more)

This standard for the Ellington band came, as Duke said, "as close as an arrangement gets to sounding spontaneous," with the freely swinging style. It's also among the Ellington tracks that served as a clear precursor to the big band swing music of the later 1930s and early '40s. An interesting intro with piano and a deep, low-register, punched-out trombone phrase lead into lively, swinging playing of the distinctive main theme and variations, with sharp horn accents. This is mainly an ensemble piece. Crescendos effectively augment texture, feel and dynamics; and unison playing of the saxophones and clarinet add a further interesting dimension to the soundscape. A feature attraction, following a rumbling, repeated ensemble riff that nicely sets the scene for a sound contrast, is a siren song of a clarinet solo by Barney Bigard with his unique style and rich tone. But Duke Ellington the composer/arranger is the biggest star here, showing off his band's rich ensemble playing at its finest.

Reviewer: Dean Alger

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  • 1 Bryan Mangum // Mar 17, 2009 at 01:45 PM
    Not that it isn't brilliant, as all of Ellington's tracks are, but why would you single out the Victor recording? Of the four takes he recorded of "Rockin' In Rhythm" in January 1931, the two for Victor were the weakest. The Okeh (Jan. 8) and Brunswick (Jan. 14) versions are simply better. Victor must have agreed - while the other two recordings battled for sales, they didn't bother releasing theirs until 1939.