ELLINGTON, DUKE Such Sweet Thunder. Poll Winners Records

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Ellington Duke Such Sweet Thunder Poll Winners Records

DUKE ELLINGTON Such Sweet Thunder

Clark Terry, Willie Cook, Cat Anderson, Ray Nance (tp), Quentin Jackson, Britt Woodman, John Sanders (tb), Jimmy Hamilton (cl, ts), Russell Procope (as, cl), Johnny Hodges (as), Harry Carney (bar, cl, b-cl), Duke Ellington (p), Jimmy Woode (b), Sam Woodyard (d). New York, December 6, 1956-May 3, 1957.

The complete original album Such Sweet Thunder (Columbia CL1033), Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s musical vision of the works of William Shakespeare. As a bonus, three extra tracks from the same sessions that were not included on the original LP, as well as two other complete Ellington suites, “The Harlem Suite” and “The Controversial Suite”. Includes 12-page booklet

For an African American jazz musician to compose a suite based on Shakespearean themes during the 1950s was certainly not an every day occasion. In fact, it would have been an ambitious project even for a classical composer. But as Irving Townsend explained in the original liner notes that follow, when the composer in question is the one-and-only Duke Ellington, no one is surprised at all. This was by no means the first time the Duke embarked on a difficult project as he had been actively expanding the jazz language through longer and more sophisticated works since the early 30s. As they were generally thematic pieces divided into many shorter sections, the extended compositions were eventually labelled as “suites”, and there would be many of them. The result of many sessions, the current edition presents the complete original Such Sweet Thunder album (tracks 1-12) plus three tunes from the same sessions that were originally intended to form part of the suite but were later discarded (“Suburban Beauty”, “A Flat Minor” and “Café Au Lait”). As a bonus, this release also includes two of Ellington’s previous suites: The Harlem Suite, also known as A Tone Parallel to Harlem, and The Controversial Suite, a kind of humorous work written as a friendly critique of some of the different musical styles in jazz.

Original Downbeat ***** review:

“Listening to Such Sweet Thunder, you are ashamed to think of all the relatively trivial releases on which five-star ratings have been squandered. For in the dozen vignettes, dedicated to the Stratford, Ontario, Shakesperean festival and suggested by characters and ituations in various plays (the title is a quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Ellington and Billy Strayhorn found a challenge, one that stimulated them to the creation of a group of works all within the normal Ellington compass, all corresponding with the classic conception of the band’s sound, yet achieving in this unpretentious framework exactly what the suite set out to do.” (Leonard Feather)

Poll Winners Records PWR27285

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Box sets - Depending on the product packaging, box sets are not charged at the full rate.
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