Fargo, North Dakota, November 7, 1940

Between 1939 and 1942, Ellington could do no wrong. He created (classics virtually every time he stepped into the studio, and his band — which in that period included Jimmy Blanton, the most influential bassist in 20th-century music, composer Billy Strayhorn, tenor saxophonist Ben Webster, and trumpeter Ray Nance — achieved something akin to perfection. Well, in 1940, when live recordings were virtually unknown, two young engineers got permission to record Ellington at a dance in Fargo. Most of that music was first released by the Book-of-the-Month Club a decade ago. Now Jack Towers, that most scrupulous of engineers and one of the men who made the original recordings, has lovingly edited every scrap (some 2 1/2 hours of music, including many previously unreleased fragments). The result is Fargo, North Dakota, November 7, 1940, an express train that takes you back 51 years and into the vortex of pure genius. A+

Fargo, North Dakota, November 7, 1940
  • Music