Masterpieces by Ellington

Masterpieces by Ellington is the first LP album by American pianist, composer, and bandleader Duke Ellington, recorded for the Columbia label in 1950.[1] It was one of the earliest 12-inch LPs to take advantage of the extended time available and consisted of four tracks, three of them "concert arrangements" of Ellington standards and one, "The Tattooed Bride," a recent tone poem.

Masterpieces by Ellington
Masterpieces by Ellington.jpg
Studio album by
RecordedDecember 18, 1950
Bonus tracks August 7 & December 11, 1951
Duke Ellington chronology
Great Times
Masterpieces by Ellington
Ellington Uptown
Alternative Cover

Release historyEdit

The original 1951 release under the "Columbia Masterworks" banner featured a red cover which was replaced by the more modern blue cover in 1956.[2] The album was re-released on CD in 2004 with additional bonus tracks recorded at later sessions.


The album features full-length versions of Ellington's classics "Mood Indigo" (1930), "Sophisticated Lady" (1933), and "Solitude" (1934). No longer constrained by the limitations of 78s, these arrangements range from 8 to 15 minutes in length. The first two feature vocals by Eve Duke, recording under the name Yvonne Lanauze,[3] and the third includes a climactic solo by trombonist Lawrence Brown. The newest composition, "The Tattooed Bride" (1948), gives extended space to clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton in almost concerto-like fashion. The lengthy arrangements were created by both Ellington and his longtime collaborator Billy Strayhorn.[4]


Jazz critic Gary Giddins called the album "One of the first genuinely innovative 12-inch LPs."[5] He noted that "Ellington eschewed the suite format in favor of continuous long-form works that reflected a liberation made possible by the LP. The vividly languorous 15-minute "Mood Indigo" (on Masterpieces) exemplifies Ellington's new found freedom".[6]

Ellington biographer John Edward Hasse notes that "Mood Indigo" in this updated version "goes through several meters (one section is in waltz time), three keys, and effective contrasts in sonorities, densities, and timbres. What variety Ellington and Strayhorn could manage from the sixteen-piece orchestra and from a familiar short song!" He also notes that "The Tattooed Bride is considered by some critics as one of Ellington's most effective extended works."[7]

The AllMusic review by Bruce Eder awarded the album 4½ stars and stated: "For the first time in his recording career, Ellington was able to forego the three-minutes-and-change restrictions in running time of the 78-rpm disc — he and the band rose to the occasion."[8]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [8]
Tom HullA–[10]
The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings    [11]
The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide     [9]

Track listingEdit

1."Mood Indigo"15:27
2."Sophisticated Lady"
3."The Tattooed Bride"
  • Ellington
Total length:47:05

Bonus tracks on CD reissue

7."Rock Skippin' at the Blue Note"
  • Ellington
  • Strayhorn
Total length:55:31



  1. ^ A Duke Ellington Panorama Archived 2017-09-09 at the Wayback Machine accessed May 24, 2010
  2. ^ Neely, T., Goldmine Jazz Album Price Guide, 2004, p. 165
  3. ^ Baker, Rafferty, "Jazz musician, 91, who played with Duke Ellington, now entertains residents at seniors' home" [1], CBC News, accessed April 10, 2018
  4. ^ Hajdu, David. Lush Life: A Biography of Billy Strayhorn. North Point Press: New York City, 1996. p. 140.
  5. ^ Giddins, G., Natural Selection: Gary Giddins on Comedy, Film, Music, And Books, 2006, p. 229
  6. ^ Giddins, G. Ellington's Legacy, JazzTimes, March 2004
  7. ^ Hasse, John Edward, Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, Da Capo Press: New York City, 1995, p. 302
  8. ^ a b Eder, B. AllMusic Review accessed May 24, 2010
  9. ^ Swenson, J., ed. (1985). The Rolling Stone Jazz Record Guide. USA: Random House/Rolling Stone. p. 69. ISBN 0-394-72643-X.
  10. ^ Hull, Tom (n.d.). "Essential Jazz Albums of the 1950s". Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  11. ^ Cook, Richard; Morton, Brian (2008). The Penguin Guide to Jazz Recordings (9th ed.). Penguin. p. 433. ISBN 978-0-141-03401-0.
  12. ^ Liner notes - Columbia LP ML-4418, 1951