Never No Lament: The Blanton-Webster Band

This three-disc compilation of Duke Ellington classics supersedes a similarly titled, sometimes harsh-sounding collection released in the early CD era and adds several fine alternate takes to the boun

This three-disc compilation of Duke Ellington classics supersedes a similarly titled, sometimes harsh-sounding collection released in the early CD era and adds several fine alternate takes to the bounty. Simply put, these are among jazz's timeless recordings, and they've never sounded better. The pianist/composer's 1940-'42 big band was charged by two brilliant musicians —tenorist Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton—whose spirited contributions meshed with those of such masterful soloists as Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Rex Stewart, and Barney Bigard. The group harvested a bumper crop of masterworks, including "Take the A Train," "Jack the Bear," "Ko-Ko," "Cotton Tail," and "In a Mellotone," to name but a few. The 75 tracks here comprise one of the foundations of 20th-century American music; hats off to Bluebird for a superior restoration job.—CM