The Essential Duke Ellington, a two-CD set, differs from previous Columbia/Legacy Duke Ellington reissues in that the music is drawn not only from Sony's vaults but from BMG's vaults, too. Four selections are from the 1920s, 20 date from the 1930s, seven are from the 1940s, and the final six were recorded between 1950 and 1960. Is this an essential acquisition? Most Ellington collectors will already have all of these performances in more complete fashion, while general collectors should realize that this two-fer does not cover Ellington's final 14 years and largely overlooks most of the highlights from the 1950s. However if it is found at a budget price, this set can act as a decent introduction to the remarkable Ellington. Among the many highlights are "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo," "Hot And Bothered," "Rockin' In Rhythm," "It Don't Mean a Thing," "Caravan," "Mood Indigo," "Cotton Tail," and the 1950s version of "Perdido," plus four small-group items (headed by Ellington's sidemen) from the '30s.