Congratulations. You now hold in your hand some of the finest music produced in 20th-century America. The catalog of Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899-1974) and his orchestra stretches over 50 years; at its best, which is often, it transcends all the categories normally assigned to it - swing, big-band, jazz, what have you - and stands with the classics of any genre. This disc selects 14 prime tracks from two decades of Ellingtonia, offering an excellent glimpse into the style of this peerless composer, arranger, bandleader and pianist. The oldest material here dates from the fall of 1927. Three tracks by the "Blanton-Webster" band of 1940-42 - so-called because of two gifted new members, upright bassist Jimmie Blanton and tenor saxophonist Ben Webster - fill out our set. Sixty-five years later, this music has lost none of its astonishing power.