This handsomely packaged three-CD set from Bluebird collects nearly four hours of rare performances, both curiosities and treasures, from the prolific final decade of Duke Ellington’s life. There’s enough fresh, fascinating, and downright brilliant material here to guarantee that any self-respecting Ellingtonian will want to hunker down with this set for at least a week before calling up his friends to say, “You’ve got to hear this….” The first disc is dominated by the Duke’s solo piano work and puts to death once again the old canard about the great man’s “limited” technique. The disc opens with one of the Duke’s very last live dates, recorded in Eastbourne, England, in December 1973. The band is in fine form, with elegant versions of favorites like “Creole Love Call,” “Don’t You Know I Care?,” and “I Can’t Get Started” certainly worth preserving. But it is on Duke’s solos, accompanied by Joe Benjamin on bass and Rocky White on drums, that he’s playing for eternity. One moment of genius arrives at the end of the program, when Duke plays “Meditation,” a shimmering statement of serenity from the Third Sacred Concert. The first disc also contains four cuts from a piano workshop at the 1965 Pittsburgh Jazz Festival, including a remarkable blues duet between Duke and Earl Hines, with each pianist playing in a different stereo channel. There are even three solo tracks taped at a private party in 1968, including Duke soloing through “Satin Doll” while Willie “The Lion” Smith listens in. Disc 2 intersperses rare Ellington interview material with live recordings of Duke playing his classic compositions accompanied by Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. The arrangements, by Richard Hayman, may be over the top, but the sound of Duke’s crisp, swinging piano over all that orchestral muscle is finally mesmerizing, especially on masterpieces like “Mood Indigo,” “Single Petal of a Rose,” and “The Mooche.” The third disc returns to print an exclusive Reader’s Digest recording from 1969 of the Ellington band swinging its way through arrangements of contemporary pop music. The material is occasionally cheesy -- “Spanish Flea” and “A Taste of Honey” -- but the band sounds fantastic, with Johnny Hodges and Cootie Williams and the rest of the resident geniuses tearing into this stuff like they were born to play it. The verdict? If this set is for you, you’ve probably ordered it before reading this far. Happy listening. Ellington was one old man who did not go quietly into the night -- and what a joyous noise he made.