The Treasury Shows, Vol. 1
On April 7, 1945, Duke Ellington began a series of broadcasts for the Treasury Department; the series ended 45 shows later on October 5, 1946. Albums of the broadcasts were released by Sweden's Phontastic label's Nostalgia Series beginning in the early 1980s and, almost 20 years later, Denmark's outstanding Storyville label began an undertaking to reissue all of the sessions on CD. The liner notes from this initial volume promise a release every other month. When the series originally started, World War II was ending in Europe, but an intense struggle was anticipated for Japan. Still seeking to promote war bond sales, the Treasury Department sponsored 55-minute Saturday broadcasts by Ellington from various venues, mainly in New York and some in Los Angeles as well. As a bonus on the first volume, Storyville has included two 1943 broadcasts of the Treasury's Star Parade Show which had Ellington's band as the feature. The Ellington ensemble was undergoing some changes during this period. Ben Webster had departed (although he is heard on the 1943 broadcasts), and Junior Raglin had replaced the recently deceased Jimmy Blanton on bass. Juan Tizol and Harold "Shorty" Baker had also departed but, like so many former Ellington players, they returned in later years. But the basic foundation of the band was still intact. Johnny Hodges does his alto thing on "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." Kay Davis pays honor to Adelaide Hall with her obbligatos on "Creole Love Call." Jimmy Hamilton, Lawrence Brown, and Cat Anderson are on hand as part of one of the Duke's most resourceful organizations. The play list is made up mostly of Ellington/Strayhorn compositions (many written during this period) with an occasional nod to pop music of the day. And several of the songs (and the war bond promos) are repeated. But even the insulting comments of the announcer, who refers to Al Hibbler as "that blind boy who sings with the Duke Ellington Orchestra," doesn't detract from the wonderful experience generated by this album. This is essential Ellington.