Alice Babs & Duke Ellington – Serenade To Sweden (Full Album)

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Serenade to Sweden is an album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington and vocalist Alice Babs recorded in 1963 and released on the Reprise label in 1966. The album was released on CD in 2017 by Real gone music.

“Legendary jazz pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington paired with virtuoso Swedish vocalist Alice Babs for this superb, and somewhat rare, 1961 session Serenade to Sweden. A star on the European jazz scene since the ’30s, Babs was blessed with a pristine, highly resonant set of vocal chops that combined the insouciant romanticism of cool-school singers like June Christy with the opera-ready gymnastics of Ella Fitzgerald. Ellington had long been a fan and so when their paths crossed on tour in 1963, he set up a recording session in Paris. Joining them was a well-curated rhythm section of European musicians including bassist Gilbert Rovere and drummer Christian Garros. While technically a small group date, these tracks do evince a symphonic big-band sound with Ellington’s unique addition of a four-member French horn section. The result is a set of lush-sounding productions with Ellington framing Babs’ angelic vocals in his singularly urbane, swinging fashion. Adding to the symphonic air are Babs’ distinctive, wordless vocals, a style in which she splits the difference between opera prima donna and scat singer. It’s an approach she takes on many of these cuts including a sparkling, midtempo reading of Ellington’s classic “Satin Doll” in which she interprets the melody with improvisational flair. It’s a style closer to a horn instrumentalist than your average jazz singer and brings to mind the work Ellington achieved with longtime collaborators like saxophonist Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster. Elsewhere, she takes a more traditional approach, displaying her crisp enunciation and deft phrasing on tracks like “The Boy in My Dreams,” “I Didn’t Know About You,” and “I’m Beginning to See the Light.” Babs also contributes several of her own highly engaging originals with the supple and moody ballad “Strange Visitor,” and the buoyant swinger “Babsie.”” – Matt Collar/AllMusic.

Track listing:
All tracks are written by Duke Ellington except as noted.

1. “Serenade to Sweden” 3:10
2. “The Boy in My Dreams” 2:30
3. “Stoona” 2:53
4. “La De Doody Doo” 2:15
5. “Azure” 2:50
6. “Come Sunday” 4:50
7. “C Jam Blues” 2:36
8. “I Didn’t Know About You” Ellington, Bob Russell 4:10
9. “Satin Doll” Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Johnny Mercer 2:55
10. “Take Love Easy” 3:22
11. “Babsie” 2:05
12. “(I Want) Something to Live For” 2:48
13. “I’m Beginning to See the Light” Ellington, Don George, Johnny Hodges, Harry James 2:38
14. “Untitled Lullaby” 2:33

Recorded at Studio Hoche, Paris on February 28 (tracks 5, 9 & 14) and March 1 (tracks 1-4, 6-8 & 10-13), 1963.

Duke Ellington – piano (tracks 1-11, 13 & 14)
Alice Babs – vocals
Unknown – french horn (tracks 5, 9 & 14)
Billy Strayhorn – piano (track 12)
Kenny Clarke (tracks 1-4, 6-8 & 10-13), Gilbert Rovere (tracks 5, 9 & 14) – bass
Sam Woodyard – drums


Released: 1966
Recorded: February 28 & March 1, 1963
Recording Location: Paris
Label: Reprise