But jazz did manage to do something amazing with the blues, with swing and the blues together. And it was The Duke who turned the blues into a truly sophisticated art form beyond three chords — into a complex, composed and supremely flexible art form. First he made an ensemble of distinct voices, and then scored them with adventurous elaborations of the blues mood. There’s not a single three-chord progression on this album; just superlative little pockets of blues in and around three minutes in length. Moody chords and warm solos. Hodges in fine, clear form. Nance, Carney, Strayhorn, all in compact/expansive jazz miniatures. Laid-back, lively and amazingly free with the genre, really putting the format out there, composing by tonal band colours with a supreme understanding and mastery and brevity. Not a cliché to be found.
Duke Ellington — Blues in Orbit. 1958, Columbia.