Listening to early Duke Ellington on a long journey by car, I remind myself of how good his sides for OKeh are. You always hear something new.

 

This time I hear what sounds mighty like rock ‘n’ roll ‘avant la lettre’. Listen to this Ellington blues composition, Lazy Duke, from 1929, the opening reminiscent of Frankie and Johnnie. At about 1:18, the chorus is taken by Barney Bigard on clarinet – the piano figure underneath is almost where boogie and blues would go thirty years later.

The two wailing reeds take an effective combined solo, and the percussive acoustic bass drives at an insistently steady rhythm.

Here’s the original 78 “Fox Trot”, credited to The Harlem Footwarmers, one of Ellington’s many aliases on OKeh.