Johnson, Melvin win Manager of the Year awards

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The most difficult thing about Duke Ellington is taking in the full scope of what he did. His career as a musician began in 1917, the same year Thelonious Monk was born, and he was still making music that rated with his best fifty years later, a decade after Monk’s prime had ended. Anyone who’s gotten into Ellingtonia at all seriously has at some point just lost the ability to cope with how much great material there is even among just his out of the way recordings—there are the small group sessions, and the piles of V-discs he did during the World War II-era recording ban, and the archive of private recordings of his late night hotel musings, and his piano duets, and his bass duets, and the time he played the Mary Poppinsscore, and it just goes on and on and on. Most of it is astonishingly good.

As a for instance, listen to Monk’s 1957 arrangement of “Abide With Me” for horns, which led and keyed his masterpiece Monk’s Music, and then to “Sunswept Sunday,” a gem from Ellington’s 1959 score for Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder, which is well enough liked but probably not the sort of thing many would list among their top 20 Ellington records.

That’s Monk at the peak of his powers during one of the great recording sessions of all time against a 60-year-old Ellington doing incidental music for a film, with both after the same sense of stillness and clarity. The maestro doesn’t suffer at all in the comparison.

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