Few would claim that Duke’s 1960s Reprise albums contained his finest work, but four of them add up to lot of music. His great soloists wallow in the catchy melodies of Mary Poppins while Ellington ’65 and ’66 cover the hits of the day, sounding fresher now than the new takes of other leaders’ swing classics that make up Will The Big Bands Ever Come Back?. The fifth disc has Ellington’s tunes but not his whole band, on a 1963 small-group album for Atlantic with violinists Stephane Grappelly, Ray Nance and Svend Asmussen. Travelling the world and recording his own music on RCA, Ellington did so much in the 1960s that these recordings seem little more than a sidelight on his genius, but they’re still wonderful. 

Sound Quality: 90%