Irony of the Month Dept.: Last week, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, conducted by Mercer Ellington, offered a splendid recital in a small, crowded nightclub--Marla's. On Tuesday and Wednesday, a far larger venue, the Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, played host to an odd, ersatz entity billed as "Mostly Duke."
The show, embarking on a national tour, takes advantage of the Ellington name without ever displaying the late maestro's instrumental mastery. In fact, the only non-vocal Ellington music of the evening was "Cotton Tail," played with painful sluggishness by what sounded like a pickup band, under the nominal direction of Herb Jeffries, whose real role was that of emcee and singer.