Duke Ellington - Ellington at Newport (1956), 4/10

Not really recorded at Newport, that's fine, I don't mind a re-recording of the concert considering it's now common knowledge and results in a unique, compelling story. That being said, I do not believe that a backstory carries much weight when considering the musicality and true listening value of a record, at least beyond general interest, particularly when it doesn't accomplish very much as far as progression. Still, this record is a nice little non-offensive performance from one of the all time greats of big band music. The 1999 complete re-release offers more to fans, but the original is decent enough listening and contains some great performances. Despite it's backstory and the great musicians involved, however, the resulting product is too uniform and tame to transcend its very traditional swing feel. If you prefer very straight forward horn playing and simple composition you may consider this a great record, for me it doesn't do much apart from very singular moments of interest like the trumpet blasts at the tail end of "Festival Junction" or the frantic playing during the later half of "Newport Up". "Jeep's Blues" and "Diminuendo In Blue" are almost wholly uninteresting in the greater context of swing and what Ellington would accomplish after this recording. I prefer the original track list not only because of its brevity compared to the 126 minute complete recording, but I can appreciate the sound accomplished in the studio regardless of its odd beginnings. Worth listening for fans of big band or swing.