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Doug Duke
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Doug Duke, Never Better

Never Better

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Track Listing
Horn Track 01. What Is This Thing Called Love 05.29
Horn Track 02. St. Louis Blues 10:04
  Track 03. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore 01:27
  Track 04. “A” Train 01:24
Horn Track 05. Improv (with One O’ Clock Jump) 06:38
  Track 06. Imagination 06:56
Horn Track 07. Stella By Starlight 02:24
  Track 08. The Jersey Bounce 04:05
Horn Track 09. Yesterday 06:22
  Track 10. Bonus Track 01:38
  Total 44:50

About This Recording
Nothing Doug Duke ever recorded approaches the artistic mastery heard on this CD.   Tucked among the several hundred reels of professional tapes found in the late Walter Dixon’s library, this recording was hidden in a box labeled with a blank cue card.  But on the back of the cue card were these instructions, “Edit, removing Duval Street on end.  Leave only music.”   Inside the box was a torn piece of paper listing a few song titles in Walter Dixon’s faded handwriting.  

Nothing about the box with its cue card or the torn piece of paper inside, prepared Sheron Dixon for what she was about to hear as she uploaded this “mystery tape” into her computer.   Incredibly, this was not only one of Doug Duke’s tapes, it surpassed anything she had heard thus far and appeared to have been recorded simply for Walter Dixon’s listening pleasure.   
Although an accomplished solo pianist himself, Walter Dixon regarded Douglas Duke as “the best in the business.” Mr. Duke recorded for several labels, including Decca and Phillips, but Walter always regretted that none of Doug’s recordings “showed the greatness of which he was capable.”  Walter enjoyed listening to Doug perform his magic on the keyboards of his little Hammond organ and the big grand piano in WHAM’s studio B and made it a point to capture Doug Duke playing at his best whenever possible. 

To achieve his incredible sound, Doug tore his little Hammond M-3 spinet organ apart and rebuilt it “to open its throat.”  He brought it to WHAM and placed it in close proximity to the radio station’s grand piano.  Studio B was
the only WHAM studio large enough to accommodate this otherwise simple set up but it required them to always work “after hours.” 

To get the exact reverberation Doug wanted, Ed Mitchell placed a speaker down in the basement hallway and put a microphone in front of it.  Then he put a microphone in front of the Hammond and a third microphone (attached to a boom) was lowered in front of Walter.  That was the extent of their technology. No Leslie speakers were used! 

Following the recording sessions for Walter’s Time Between show, Doug would occasionally continue playing.  The work was done, the hour late and the mood relaxed.  These were the moments Doug liked to play for the pure joy of it.  Walter always made sure Ed Mitchell kept the tape rolling on such occasions, but this time a longer off-the-record recording session must have been planned because it appears Doug played over a dub of a Time Between program.  Once the tape began rolling (except for one 23 second pause), Doug played a nonstop medley until the tape literally ran out (forty-seven minutes later) while he was still in the middle of a song.   Oh, and the pause?  It was to ask Ed, “Will you give me a high level because this background is very soft.  Okay?”      

In this recording we find Doug lingering over each song until he had exhausted all that it called forth in him before moving seamlessly into the next number in his long, unbroken medley.  Some, such as “A” Train, lasted less than a minute and a half.  Others lasted much longer.   He must have been in a “bluesy” mood that night because his improvisation on St. Louis Blues lasted more than ten minutes.   On this night, so long ago, Doug Duke was Never Better.

This CD contains a never-before heard recording of Douglas Duke.  Although largely unknown, Doug Duke was one of the most outstanding jazz pianist/organist of the 2oth century.

Produced by Walter W. Dixon Jr. at radio Station WHAM in Rochester, New York   1961-1962.
Sound Engineer Edward Mitchell.
Digitalized, edited and reproduced by Sheron McNeil Dixon 2006.
Booklet, jewel case and CD designed and printed by Sheron McNeil Dixon.
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