This fine record tends to get lost in the varied landscape of Ellington Columbia dates from the mid-1950s to early 1960s. While it is not among the very best of these, it is not far off that mark (as is the trio date that followed, Piano in the Foreground). Similarly, it is not quite the audiophile dream that a couple of earlier Ellington Columbias are, but it does sound awfully good, especially on this beautiful vinyl issue. The piano is actually less in the background here than it often was on full-band dates, and anyone with any sense knows that that is a good thing; Ellington was one of the great piano stylists in jazz history, and if jazz writers have sometimes failed to emphasize this, jazz pianists haven’t. There’s plenty of solo space for iconic sidemen like Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, and Jimmy Hamilton, too. The program is weighed towards classics like “Take the A Train,” “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” but the arrangements differ in many ways from the originals. Piano in the Background will be enjoyed equally by specialists and general listeners alike.