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Category:    Home > Reviews > Jazz Music Compilation > Duke Ellington - Swinging At His Best

Duke Ellington – Swinging At His Best


Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Music: B-



Duke Ellington is a legend for good reason.  Though many have heard Stevie Wonder’s huge hit tribute song to him, the chart-topping Sir Duke, few these days have had the pleasure of hearing the source of the inspiration.  Passport continues their budget-line series of older film material of major music artists with Duke Ellington – Swinging At His Best, which features the following performances:


1)     Cottontail

2)     Flamingo (vocal by Herb Jeffries)

3)     Rockin’ In Rhythm

4)     Stormy Weather (as instrumental)

5)     Blow By Blow

6)     Sophisticated Lady

7)     Caravan

8)     The Mooche

9)     V.I.P. Boogie

10)  Solitude

11)  Mood Indigo

12)  The Hawk Talks



Some of the footage runs together from its original source, suggesting this is from a filmed stage performance to be shown theatrically, but the DVD does not identify the source.  I like the optical printing as wipes go from shot to shot in a way you will never see in any George Lucas Star Wars film.  The band’s performances are exemplary, running the usual 40+ minutes as all these volumes do.  Having now seen many such programs from several companies, I can say the almost eccentric or even avant-garde way these songs are put together put Ellington’s work in a class by itself.


The 1.33 X 1 full frame image shows its age, is dated, a bit muddy and was all shot in black and white.  None of it looks like color footage copied monochrome.  The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is equally aged, but you can still hear how good the music is.  With no extras on the DVD, that is still enough to recommend Duke Ellington – Swinging At His Best.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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