A very good friend of Villes Ville whose work for the Internet Archive features in our posting every Monday recently started his own blog, Cottontail On Jazz. There 's a permanent link to his writing on Ellington at the top of the page but you can access the full blog here.
I have a soft spot for Cotton Tail. It was the first Ellington record I ever heard. Along with Take the 'A' Train (which for some reason didn't make quite as much of an impression on my fifteen year old self) it featured on an old double album called Original RCA Swing Sounds which I purchased during my initial flush as a fervent fan of Glenn Miller (!)
I didn't like the track at all. It seems to me not even to have a proper melody. It sounded rough and unfinished - just reeds and brass blowing across the chords of a half-finished tune, the saxophone solo a rough-hewn half hearted blowing with no art or construction. So much for Duke Ellington and Ben Webster - the folly of youth! I tell a somewhat different story nowadays.
Ironically, so the story goes, Webster himself was less than impressed with his own solo. He was gulled by Ellington into believing the first take was just a rehearsal and expected another go. The track, with Webster's 'work in progress' is, of course, a classic. Do visit Cottontail on Jazz and, in the meantime, courtesy of the cathode You Tube, here is the original side: