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Few practitioners have changed the way their instrument is played forever, but Jimmy Blanton ranks high among them. Playing with Duke Ellington’s band for just two years — he died of tuberculosis in 1941 at the age of 23 — the virtuoso bassist liberated the double bass from its metronomic function to an instrument as capable as any of producing solos of great depth and beauty.As a teenager, Ray Brown revered Ellington, lingering outside a neighborhood tavern in his native Pittsburgh to hear juke box hits such as “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be,” and later crediting the Ellington-Blanton team as the major impetus for him to pick up the bass. So, when Norman Granz called Brown in 1972 to record a duo session with Ellington in Las Vegas in tribute to Blanton, Brown was at first panicked then delighted (as he relates in a liner note to a 1994 CD reissue).An icon himself for his contributions to the music of Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson and Ella Fitzgerald, to whom he was briefly married, Brown acquits himself beautifully on the intimate set of Ellingtonia. His rich tone and nimble phrasing are evident from the opening “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” in which he wittily converses with Ellington’s elegant pianism. The buoyancy of Brown’s fleet-fingered pizzicato continues on the Blanton showpiece “Pitter Panther Patter,” and listeners can hear the elation his rhythmic bounce injects into “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be.” The pair also joyfully digs in on an update of “See See Rider” and sounds quite modern on the four-movement “Fragmented Suite for Piano and Bass.” While his virtuosity is on full display, Brown remains ever-respectful of his boyhood hero, never ostentatious.But the greatest realization of Blanton’s reimagination of the bass’ possibilities unfolds on Brown’s unaccompanied solos on “Sophisticated Lady,” which bookend the tune with deeply felt intro and outro statements. Brown, who died 20 years ago in July, continued to make excellent music up to the end. — Bob Weinberg