When Duke Ellington came onstage to open the show at a nightclub, he would walk out just as the band was finishing the theme, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” welcome the audience, thank them, tell them the boys in the band all loved them madly, and then say, “And now we’d like you to meet the pianist.”
Duke loved the effect he would get occasionally from some member of the audience uneducated in Ellingtonia. As Duke finished saying “… meet the pianist” he would put out his arm toward the piano, turn his hand palm up and look expectantly toward the empty piano bench. For a split second he was the master of illusion. There was more than one nightclub patron over the years who saw a pianist on that bench when Duke made that gesture. Then, of course, as the appreciative applause arose, Duke would smile his elegant smile and stride over to the piano. It always amazed me how quickly he could move when he wanted to. He could sure move faster than I could.
Once across the stage and on the bench, Duke would stretch out his arms again to remove any tension from a tight sleeve, sometimes touch his hands together and look down at the keys. Then he would play.
Make no mistake about it: in addition to all the other things Duke Ellington was, and was superbly, he was also one hell of a piano player. Anytime.
DUKE ELLINGTON, piano
on first seven selections:
JOHN LAMB, bass
SAM WOODYARD, drums (Recorded in New York City; July 18, 1966)
On last three selections:
VICTOR GASKIN, bass
PAUL KONDZIELA, bass (except on “Fat Mess”)
RUFUS JONES, drums (Recorded in Las Vegas, Nevada; January 7, 1970)
SIDE A :
01. DON JUAN (2:33)
02. SLOW BLUES (3:58)
03. LOOKING GLASS (2:54)
04. THE SHEPHERD /TAKE 1 (5:48)
05. THE SHEPHERD /TAKE 2 (6:32)
06. TAP DANCER’S BLUES (2:50)
07. SAM WOODYARD’S BLUES (6:35)
08. DUCK AMOK (3:40)
09. NEVER STOP REMEMBERING BILL (4:25)
10. FAT MESS (2:58)
All selections composed by Duke Ellington (Tempo Music –ASCAP).
Remixed by Skip Shimmin and Orrin Keepnews at Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, Ca.; June 1974.