DUKE ELLINGTON, who will be honored in an 8 p.m. concert Monday at Howard University's Cramton Auditorium, believed that music came in two varieties: good and bad. If that's the case, then Ellington's music is as good as it gets. Here are some of the latest additions to recorded Ellingtonia:
ALL STAR ROAD BAND -- Duke Ellington. (Doctor Jazz W2X39137). One of the most satisfying Ellington albums released in years, this two- record selection is collected from a one-night stand in 1957. The level of inspiration from the soloists -- including Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges and Clark Terry -- is nothing short of remarkable, especially when you consider how often the band had to entertain requests for most of the material found here. Hyattsville's own Jack Towers has restored the sound quality to very respectable levels.
THE STOCKHOLM CONCERT, 1966 -- Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. (Pablo-Live, 238 242). Granted, you can find Ella singing his songs in a more intimate and at times a more appropriate setting, but for sheer fun and high spirits, it's hard to fault a festival recording this festive. The best performances, not surprisingly, feature Ella and the band at full throttle, as on "Cottontail," where she and saxophonist Paul Gonsalves swing with all their might.
THE DUKE ELLINGTON & COUNT BASIE SONGBOOKS -- Mel Torme. (VERVE 823-248-1). Despite an all-star band, Johnny Mandel's arrangements are rather cumbersome on the Ellington side of this tribute; Basie gets a better shake. Still, Torme's singing is agile and sincere, and two of the album's lesser-known Ellington songs, "I Like the Sunrise" and "Just a Sittin' and a Rockin'," deserve to be heard more often.
COTTON CLUB STARS -- (Stash 124). Once you get past Irving Mills' chummy introductions (he refers to Ellington as "Dukie," among other things), the four Ellington performances included here clearly rank among the highlights of this two- record Cotton Club anthology. Although the 1929 recordings were made in the studio, (which explains why the sound quality is quite good), the band members try to recreate the feeling of a Cotton Club floor show, even going so far as to applaud themselves. The staging isn't convincing, but the music, which eventually spans a decade, is vibrantly colorful and wonderfully evocative.
DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA FEATURING PAUL GONSALVES -- (Fantasy F 9636). It's become a cliche to note that Ellington's true instrument was his band, but this 1962 session offers further evidence of how sharply attuned he was to the individual talents of his musicians. Though Gonsalves never gained the recognition of some of Duke's men, this set amply displays his commanding tone on tenor sax and his venturesome spirit as he reinterprets some of Ellington's most familiar pieces.
THE JOHNNY HODGES ALL STARS: CARAVAN -- (Prestige 24103). Ellington band spinoffs were quite common at one time. This one, which dates from the late '40s and early '50s, finds alto saxophonist Hodges working closely with Ellington and his alter ego, Billy Strayhorn. For all the talent on these sessions -- the musicians are familiar to any Ellington fan -- Hodges' gifts remain in the forefront. As he moves from ballads to blues to jump tunes, his phrasing is either supremely lyrical, warmly seductive or instantly invigorating.
DUKE ELLINGTON & HIS ORCHESTRA -- 1952 -- (Folkways FJ2968). This album chronicles the orchestra in transition, with Hodges just beginning a four-year leave and stalwarts Tyree Glenn, Sonny Greer and Lawrence Brown also gone. But in come Paul Gonsalvez, Cat Anderson and Clark Terry. And since these recordings were done around the Duke's birthday, spirits were high and Ellington's piano was particularly driving and inventive in a program of standards.