Recent listening, current

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

113. Duke Ellington / Far East Suite (1967)

Last month, I rolled down the windows of my car after working a 12-hour day, twisted the cap off an ice cold Virgil's Orange Cream soda, and enjoyed the drive home while listening to this record. The Far East Suite is one of Duke's last recorded works, and one whose material might sport the familiar names and faces of orchestras past but its compositions have a unique flavor among others in the Duke canon. It's been on regular rotation at my house since that evening with the soda pop. Between the grooves are  yards of punchy counterpoint between reeds and brass, and some of Johnny Hodges' sweetest work on wax ("Isfahan"). And of course we are treated to equally fine work by the likes of Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Russell Procope, Harry Carney, et al. The recording is memorable throughout thanks to Duke's direction of the sublimely cohesive band. It is nice to hear Duke melding his percussive piano blues with sophisticated orchestral textures and touches of middle eastern music or orientalism in tracks like "Mount Harissa," "Ad Lib on Nippon" or the opening "Tourist Point of View." I was swept up by the tidal wave of sound, which is what usually happens when I listen to Mr. Ellington.

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