September 5, 2012 – 11:39 am

Music by Duke Ellington for an uncompleted film.

Click on the panels for a better view or to download artwork.

Duke Ellington’s Degas Suite [no label, 1CD]

Live at the Rose Theater, NY, NY, and broadcast February 17, 2011. The performance was first broadcast May 7, 2009. Ex FM stereo.

“In the ’80s, the late Mercer Ellington donated his dad’s stockpile tapes to Danish Public Radio. A report from the International Association of Jazz Record Collectors (IAJRC) claims this consisted of ‘120 studio sessions, 35 location recordings and 50 interviews.’ In other words - this archive isn’t anywhere near exhausted. A huge number of stockpile tracks appeared in one hit in the late ’80s as a 10-CD (or cassette) Private Collection. They are available individually or in various boxes.” -

Inside this collection was The Degas Suite, a fully formed composition made for an unfinished documentary on the painter Edgar Degas’ paintings of racetrack scenes. The Suite was recorded in New York in 1968 and 1970 for photographer Sam Shaw’s documentary. It was mostly recorded at National Recording Studio in New York on November 6, 1968 and remained unreleased until 1987.

The first boxset of The Private Collection was released in Denmark by LMR in 1987. The most common of the sets were from Saja (US), Kaz Jazz Masters (UK) and Unidisc (Canada). WEA released the set in Germany and Japan. The Saja version is well regarded by collectors also because it is the only one that has all the movements in the Degas Suite individually tracked.

In 2009, Wynton Marsalis’ Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra played the entire suite with Ted Nash conducting. Our copy of this radio show comes from a recent 2011 rebroadcast. Unfortunately, parts of the music are spoken over by announcer Eric Reed.

What was originally conceived as four horns and Ellington on piano grew to become a big band. The Degas Suite is a sophisticated blend of piano, horns and reeds in a late period big band. Ellington left a lot of open spaces for his piano to lead. He was equally generous to share space with his sidemen. This is elegant music to illustrate his topic - Degas’ paintings.

Much time has passed since Ellington first recorded The Degas Suite in 1968. Already the CDs are either hard-to-find or out-of-print. The music however is timeless and also rare. Thanks to mdshrk1 for sharing his FM recording.
- Professor Red

Click on the highlighted tracks to download the MP3s (224 kbps). As far as we can ascertain, these tracks have never been officially released on CD.

Please Do Not Hammer The Links. Due to the size of some of the files, please be very patient when downloading the tracks. It could be that the server was very busy. The tracks should still be around. Please try again later. Kindly email us at [email protected] if you encounter persistent problems downloading the files.

Track 01. Announcer Eric Reed 1:07 (1.8MB)
Track 02. Van Gogh (Ted Nash) 4:18 (6.9MB)
(performed by Wynton Marsalis)

Track 03. Announcer 1:15 (2.0MB)
Track 04. Picasso (C. Hawkins) 3:21 (5.3MB)
(performed by Ted Nash)

Track 05. Announcer 0:33 (930k)
Track 06. Self-Portait of the Bean (Ellington) 3:33 (5.7MB)
(performed by Scott Hamilton on ts, Dan Nimmer on piano, Carlos Henriquez on bass and Ali Jackson on drums)

Track 07. Announcer 1:01 (1.6MB)
Track 08.  Lady Mac (Ellington) 2:44 (4.4MB)
(performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center with Ted Nash on alto, Marcus Printup on trumpet and Dan Nimmer on piano)

Track 09. Announcer 0:42 (1.1MB)
Track 10. Timon of Athens/Banquet Scene (Ellington) 3:58 (6.3MB)
(performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center with Wess Anderson on alto saxophone)

Degas Suite
Track 11. (cuts in music) Announcer 2:06 (3.3MB)
Track 12. Degas Suite: Introduction - Race - Racing (Ellington) 2:20 (3.7MB)
(Features Sherman Irby on alto sax, Victor Goines on clarinet; Marcus Printup on trumpet, Ted Nash on piccolo and Mike Rodriguez on trumpet)

Track 13. Announcer 0:45 (1.2MB)
Track 14. Piano Pastel/Improvisation Marcia Regina/ Piano Pastel (Reprise)/The Daily Double 12:08 (19.4MB)
(Features Walter Blanding on tenor sax, Elliot Mason on trombone and Dan Nimmer on piano)

Track 15. Announcer 0:30 (848k)
Track 16. Drawings/Promenade/Sonnet/Race 13:54 (22.2MB)
TT: 54:22

Performed by Jazz at Lincoln Center with
Dan Nimmer on piano
Carlos Henriquez on bass,
Ali Jackson on drums
Marcus Printup, Ryan Kisor, Michael Rodriguez, Wynton Marsalis - Trumpets
Chris Crenshaw, Elliott Mason, Vincent Gardner, Wycliffe Gordon - Trombones
Sherman Irby, Walter Blanding, Victor Goines, Karl Moragi, Ted Nash - Reeds

Ellington’s Degas Suite was included in a 10-CD box set, The Private Collection, released in the ’80s. Unfortunately, that release had many editions and depending on which set you have, the Degas Suite could either be on Vol 5 or Vol 7. Most of these sets are currently hard-to-find or out-of-print. But The Degas Suite does exist as a for-sale digital download albeit in MP3 quality. Buy it here.

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  1. 4 Responses to “THE DEGAS SUITE”

  2. i don’t understand,i can see no paintings,where
    are degas,picasso and van gogh ???

    By easynow on Sep 5, 2012

  3. For Ellington lovers, like me, a gentle soul posted the 24 disc Centennial Collection, containing (almost) all the RCA recordings from 1927 thru 1973 on the Avax site (3 separate postings)with multiple links.

    By Johnny Kinkdom on Sep 6, 2012

  4. Johnny:, or where? That site looks daunting. LOL

    By Motorvilleboy on Sep 17, 2012

  5. @motorvilleboy … that site ( looks as if it would work wonderfully once you stump up $70 cash for membership…
    i’d rather send the money to BigO and hope for the best…

    By Tony on Mar 10, 2013

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