Duke Ellington & His Orchestra The Conny Plank Session LP
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Ellington Experiments On Vinyl LP!
Duke Ellington’s musical works are seemingly well documented; the likelihood of
finding a good, unreleased Duke Ellington recording is slight at best.
The music of Duke Ellington is to jazz what Bach’s oeuvre is to classical music:
THE great benchmark, or – to raise it up onto an even higher pedestal – the Old
Testament, the alpha and omega. With both Bach and Ellington, you can sit down
at a piano simply to go through it building chords and something great always
happens. This music is so rich, and it is virtually indestructible.
The tempi change, solo instruments are switched around, and, on the last take of
"Afrique", you can even hear soprano vocals.
"Alerado" is a straightforward swing number, it features Wild Bill Davis on the
organ, and, most notably, Cat Anderson on the trumpet, who provide a foundation
for striking concepts of sonority and solo performance. The musical approach to
"Afrique" is freer and more avant-garde; the foundation of the piece is a
tom-tom based beat that is sustained throughout and layered with improvisations
and arranged segments.
In addition to the musical aspects, this recording also documents a special
moment: an American jazz legend in the twilight of his life encounters a young
sound engineer and producer who is preparing to give pop a new sound – now
that’s exciting, isn’t it?
The concept of the producer as a first-rate star wasn’t really a viable
possibility until Rick Rubin showed up. Although Conny carried the weight to
stand front and center, it seems highly improbable that he ever would’ve wanted
that. He exemplified the Prussian maxim mehr Sein als Schein [“be it, don’t
Stephan Plank recalls his mother telling the story of that recording session as
follows: Duke Ellington was looking for a place to rehearse in Cologne, Conny
asked the owner of Rhenus Studio if he would let him use the premises, and
politely asked Duke if he would allow him to do a no-frills recording of the
rehearsals with matched stereo mics. This version of the story appeared
plausible after the first digitization of the original tape. It lacked high
tones, so it sounded “rehearsal roomy” – however, Ingo Krauss suspected that
this sound had nothing to do with the recording, but with a poorly adjusted tape
recorder. Ingo worked as head sound engineer in Conny Plank’s studio in
Wolperath after his death, and his hunch was correct. He digitized the recording
again himself, and his version is considerably more vibrant.
Further research revealed that two takes had already been released on CD. Both
of those releases were more severely mastered; Ingo’s version, on the other
hand, is left in a natural state.
• Vinyl LP
1. Alerado (take 1)
2. Alerado (take 2)
3. Alerado (take 3)
1. Afrique (take 1)
2. Afrique (take 2)
3. Afrique (take 3/vocal version)