Skip to main content

Ask The Expert: Rare Duke Ellington

A record collector from California finds out that a live concert that Duke Ellington recorded is a rarity on vinyl.
  • Author:
  • Updated:
Image placeholder title

QUESTION: I found this LP (pictured below) along with 15 other Duke Ellington albums. One of them is signed by Harry James, Betty Grable and Duke Ellington. This particular copy of the Seattle Concert was produced for friends of the Duke. Only 50 copies were pressed according to the liner notes. This is copy 13. The cover was designed by Harry Kinder. This was a custom pressing at RCA Hollywood plant. The album was produced by Jack Lewis. Also a statement on the back indicates this album is not for sale. I have tried to find any info regarding this LP, to no avail. Can you shed any light on this item?

— Keith Glenn Dutton. Fresno, Ca.

ANSWER: That’s a very interesting record. The first live concert that Ellington recorded for release was that one — Seattle 1952. Looking at your labels, I see prefixes of E2VP. The first two letters, E2, indicate that the record was prepared that year — 1952.

I’ve never seen a copy of the limited release, and to my knowledge none have surfaced online for sale. Furthermore, it is not listed by Ellingtonia, the foremost website devoted to the Duke. This makes your record rare indeed, but the recordings did come out on LP.
In May 1954, RCA Victor released an album in its Collectors Series called Duke Ellington Seattle Concert (LJM-1002) that featured the same songs from the concert — also produced by Jack Lewis. So, apparently yours is the true first pressing of an album that the public at large did not get to hear for another two years. The 1954 release sported an entirely different cover.

The recordings came out on CD in 1995 (Bluebird 66531-2), with the whole recording being digitally remastered. Since there have been no reported sales of your album, it is impossible to suggest a potential value. Although it would not equal his earlier recordings on 78rpm, a true Ellington fan would certainly want it.

— Frank Daniels, Goldmine Contributing Editor