Duke Ellington-Ray Brown: Pitter, Panther, Patter


Pitter, Panther, Patter


Duke Ellington (piano, composer) and Ray Brown (bass)


This One’s For Blanton (Pablo 2310-721; OJCCD-810-2)

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

Recorded: Las Vegas, Nev., December 5, 1972


Rating: 100/100 (learn more)

I almost purposely decided to leave This One’s For Blanton off the list, because the whole album is so completely perfect. But I would have to pick “Pitter, Panther, Patter,” because that is the track that almost defines the Ellington-Blanton duets, and to hear Ray Brown interpret it note-for-note, you really did get a clear picture of, had Jimmy Blanton lived and he and Ellington were to do that stuff again, it probably would have had that same sound, that same kind of feel. Jimmy Blanton, of course, was Ray Brown’s number-one main man, and it shows blatantly on this recording. I also think that is a case study, maybe, just maybe, on the most perfect acoustic bass sound ever produced in the recording studio. Considering that was in late 1972, during the era when they said jazz died and there was nothing hip going on, it just so happens that one of the greatest bass sounds ever produced in the studio was done. Every single note that Ray Brown produces out of that instrument rings like a bell, from the low E all the way up to the top of the bass. You can tell it was just miked. There was no pickup, just a really perfect-perfect sound. You could almost hear the affection and the humility Ray has playing with Ellington, this joy of, “Wow, I’m playing Jimmy Blanton’s original part.” It really does sound like Jimmy Blanton in a time capsule.

From Blanton, Ray got the way he constructed his basslines, the power in his basslines. When you listen to Blanton on “In a Mellow Tone,” “Ko-Ko,” things like that, the way he’s putting his notes was very linear, much more forward-thinking, I believe, than any other bass players of that era—even Milt Hinton, God rest his soul. Jimmy Blanton was definitely from another planet. He set the pace for modern bass playing. But the thing that Ray Brown always admired most about Blanton, I know for certain, was his sound. He said when he was a kid delivering papers in Pittsburgh, there was this big jukebox in the neighborhood, and “Jack The Bear” was playing out of this jukebox, and the thing he remembered most was the bass. He said the bass was just rocking! He was like, “Man, who is that bass player?" Of course, he found out it was Jimmy Blanton and decided to learn every note that he ever played on those Ellington records. So year, Blanton was the genesis.

Ray also made a lot of records with Count Basie on Pablo in the ‘70s. Well, actually he made records with Basie in the ‘60s that weren’t credited. The famous record with Sammy Davis, Jr. and the Basie band has Ray Brown. But Ray heard Walter Page early on, when he was 11, at Pittsburgh’s William Penn Ballroom, when Basie was coming east, and he soaked up all of that Blanton language and the Walter Page language. Walter Page was much more of a...you talk about a piledriving bass player! Didn’t have a lot of technique, didn’t have much melody in his basslines, but I mean, it’s like running a truck through the wall, he was so strong. He and Papa Jo Jones... Even Ellington said in Music is My Mistress, “if I had that rhythm section with my horn section, it would be all over”—something to that effect. So Ray Brown was very much able to prove that notion that you can’t really create anything new until you have absorbed all that has come before you.

Reviewer: Christian McBride

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