Consumer Guide Album
Duke Ellington: The Best of Early Ellington [MCA, 1996]
Although it doesn't approach RCA's long-lost Flaming Youth and touches fewer famous classics than Columbia's fainter, cleaner two-CD Okeh Ellington, this warm, scratchy disc leads out of his tangled discography into his '20s music, which traffics in a rinky-dink novelty more rock and roll than his glossy big-band dance charts. At first only a few familiar tunes stand out from the delicate audacity and raucous detail of the sound. But soon every theme kicks in, every silky clarinet solo and bumptious plunger mute. Ellington called this jungle music because white folks would never have believed he heard the modern city so much better than they did. They learned, kind of.