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Image Entertainment presents
The Intimate Duke Ellington (1967)

"You are very beautiful, very dear to us, very sweet, and we do love you madly."
- Duke Ellington

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: August 05, 2003

Stars: Duke Ellington
Other Stars: Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney, Cat Anderson, Rufus Jones, John Lamb
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 00h:57m:19s
Release Date: June 17, 2003
UPC: 014381955125
Genre: jazz

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B+BB- D+

DVD Review

Jazz fans are most familiar with seeing Duke Ellington fronting his own big band, but this DVD offers two brief sets featuring Ellington on a smaller scale, and it's full of modest rewards. These were originally shot on the same day in 1967, as two half-hour episodes for Danish television—both shows feature the musicians alone in a studio, playing their tunes in a relatively unadorned and highly accomplished fashion.

For the opening set (32m:14s), Ellington is at the piano, soloing on the first couple of numbers; soon the trio is rounded out by Rufus Jones on drums, and John Lamb on the bass. Ellington's skill at the keyboards is of course remarkable, and the pleasure he takes in playing with these other two, young enough to be his sons, is palpable. Jones's solo on On the Fringe of the Jungle is especially impressive, and a couple of Ellington's band's warhorses, Mood Indigo and Take the 'A' Train, are revitalized in this more intimate setting. The setlist for the trio is as follows:

Le Sucrier Velours
Lotus Blossom
The Second Portrait of the Lion
On the Fringe of the Jungle
Mood Indigo
Take the 'A' Train

The second episode (25m:04s) has Ellington fronting an octet, and if his own playing isn't as clearly highlighted here, he seems very much like a proud father introducing his musicians in turn as they solo. Johnny Hodges sounds smooth and mellow on the sax playing Passion Flower, and then rips it up on The Jeep is Jumpin'; Cat Anderson's muted trumpet work is especially fine on Tippin' and Whisperin'. Harry Carney does for Sophisticated Lady here what Ellington did for Mood Indigo on the first set—taking an overly familiar Ellington song and making it new. The only disappointment is that this set is pretty short. Setlist here is:

Take the 'A' Train
Passion Flower
The Jeep is Jumpin'
Sophisticated Lady
Tippin' and Whisperin'
Happy Reunion
Satin Doll
Jam with Sam
Things Ain't What They Used To Be

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The print looks surprisingly fine, and the simple, tasteful camerawork serves the music well. There are occasional tight shots on the musicians' hands—Ellington at the keyboard, Rufus Jones on his virtuoso drum solo—but most of this plays out in master shots, and the years have been rather kind to these old TV broadcasts. (Don't let the color photographs on the DVD cover mislead you—these shows are in black and white.)

Image Transfer Grade: B


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access

Audio Transfer Review: The dynamic range of the PCM track is evident—this is especially clear when all the members of the octet are swinging—but it's pretty clean and free of ambient noise or crackle, and the music, especially when the band has the volume turned down low, sounds more than satisfactory.

Audio Transfer Grade: B-


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Music/Song Access with 16 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. liner notes by Scott Yanow
Extras Review: Chapter stops are provided for each musical number; the brief, informative liner notes by Ellington biographer Scott Yanow provide nice little sketches on the various members of the Duke's ensembles.

Extras Grade: D+


Final Comments

A nice, small-scale swinging pair of sessions with Duke. Jazz fans will want to check this one out.


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