Let me just say welcome to the neighborhood!! I live right up the street at 10th and L. I don't have any Ellington recommendations though I love his music, but I'm sure others can help there.
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"The Duke Ellington Reader" by Mark Tucker is a great place to start as far as biographical material goes.
Musically much of his best material is not particularly well recorded, but there are exceptions, "This One's For Blanton" and "Jazz Party In Stereo" quickly come to mind. My personal favorite album is "Duke - 1940 Live From the Crystal Ballroom Fargo, ND". It's a recording of a typical night on the road with Duke near his peak. They were an excellent dance band. "Ellington At Newport" is also a classic live recording.
Another way to appreciate Ellington's (and Billy Strayhorn) genius is to listen to how other artist interpret their songs. A large number of jazz artist have done Ellington tribute albums. Some of the better ones are by Thelonious Monk, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald and Kenny Burrell.
One last point, don't overlook Duke as a piano player. He's quite accomplished. Check out "Money Jungle" w/ Charles Mingus and Max Roach or "Great Times" w/ Billy Strayhorn.
Ditto on "Money Jungle" on blue note label.
I have the Duke Ellington/Louis Armstrong collaboration (now I forget the title) released as 2LP set long out of print on Mobile Fidelity Sound labs label. I think Classic Records has released the set as two separate LPs. Another one I like is Duke Ellington with John Coltrane (sorry forgot the title on that one two) on Impulse label.
Yeah really great master player, kind of zen like in his quest for economy of notes and a search for perfect melodic relationships. When I was young I thought this was old foggey music but now I think he was a genius.
This is a huge body of work. For me the older stuff can be hard to listen to - I just have a lot of trouble getting past the noise and artifacts of the recording process.
Here are a few more to consider.
Duke Ellington Meets Count Basie - two bands playing as one
The Great Summit - Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington - fab
Side by Side - Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges
Back to Back - Duke Ellington and Johnny Hodges
both these are small ensembles with Hodges on horn and Ellington clearly featured on piano
Francis A & Edward K - Old Blue Eyes and the Duke who cares for him as carefully as he does Ella and Rosemary Clooney - course you gotta like Sinatra to like this one
Live In Swing City: Swinging With The Duke - Wynton Marsalis and group out of Lincoln Center
I'm not sure if they'e available on cd, but on lp:
1) The Queen's Suite
2) Intimacy of the Blues
This is not "Take The A Train", middle of the fairway Duke Ellington BUT
these are two of the greatest records I've ever heard.
BTW "Take The A Train" and all of Duke's classics are absolutely worth owning and can be found on nmumerous "Best Of" compilations.
Thanks for the recommendations! I'll be checking out all of them very soon.
Jond: Thanks for the welcome. By the way, I will have to consider moving to speakers with a smaller footprint, possibly monitors. You went through something similar, right?
Thedautch: thanks for the recommendation, I've never been to E. on E. but have only heard good things about it. As soon as I find some time to check it out, I'll let you know.
Yes when we moved into a much smaller condo I trade my beloved Alon Lotus SE's for a pair of JMlabs Micro-Utopias. I thought I would miss the bass but not at all, the bass I have is tight and punchy and the transparency is addictive. Plus they're incredibly easy to drive! I highly recommend anything from the Utopia series, the Minis would give you a fair amount more bass then the Micros. Happy listening!!
He's one of my faves. I consider him one of the few "geniouses" of jazz. I have about 20 CD's of his. There honestly is not a bad one among them. However I seem to play several more often then others: Black,Brown and Beige; The Ellington Suites; Piano in the Foreground. Whatever you do, just buy something of his. I agree that anything recorded before 1950 can sound relatively distant and lacking in the frequency extremes. If you have any jazz sensibility at all you will like this stuff alot.
He is the greatest of composers of music. Try getting Duke Ellington Complete Columbia and RCA Victor Sessions with Ben Webster featuring Jimmy Blanton -Centennial Edition" A four CD set of Definitive Records check it out at www.disconforme.com that is if they are still in business or you might find it on eBay. Another smasher is "Ellington Indigos" on Columbia/Sony. Or "...and his mother called him Bill" on Bluebird. There are many others and they are all great