Title: Piano in the Background
Label: Speakers Corner
This is an LP that you don’t often see but one that is highly recommended. The twist here is that the Duke is present on piano, in some form, on every single track. Now this is seen as a ‘good thing’ because Ellington’s key work is too often neglected, principally because the attention is so often directed at his many other talents. It’s good to hear the man joining in with the fun on this well played songs that features many classics: Perdido, It Don’t Mean a Thing and Take the “A” Train (all five minutes and 28 seconds, in this case).
Initially recorded on Colombia in 1960, Duke Ellington made a point of exclaiming that the piano he used featured 91 keys instead to the usual 88. I know Bösendorfer pianos that include 92 and 97 keys but can anyone out there suggest what sort of piano Ellington was using on this LP?
The mastering is just superb here with the orchestra sounding relaxed and flowing in how they approach each piece of music. They swing like crazy and sound like they’re having a great time, always a good indication that the mastering is spot on. There is just enough air in an around the midrange to provide room for dynamic extension for saxes and trumpets, from the likes of Johnny Hodges an Ray Nance giving them as much elbow room as they need to provide punch when required and a sweet tone if necessary but with texture that adds a swathe of detail to boot.
Treble is highlighted around the cymbals, providing space to push out delicate reverb tails and a fragility that contrasts well with the power of Sam Woodyard’s drums.
The entire soundstage is wide, with a broad aspect, filling the room with sound but also a layering, revealing a classic Ellington arrangement worked to the max.
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