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Ellington Suites

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Choosing among Ellington's suites is like choosing a favorite sweet in a Fannie Mae box of assorted chocolates. :o

So many to choose from: Liberian Suite, Queen's Suite, Far East Suite, Harlem Suite, New Orleans Suite, Newport Festival Suite, Peter Gynt Suite, Toga Brava Suite, Nutcracker Suite etc.... But I think my personal favorite is the Latin America Suite.

Some highlights for me: the rolling percussion at the opening of Oclupaca, the electric bass coming in distorted and fuzzy under piano and drums in Chico Cuadradino, and the beautiful melody and piano playing that opens and closes The Sleeping Lady... Paul Gonsalves and Ellington's piano playing are also highlights throughout.

Does anybody else have a favorite suite?

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For me it's Such Sweet Thunder tied with The Far East Suite. Sorry if that's cheating... It's so hard to choose. :(

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After 40+ years of listening to Ellington, I'm still hung up on Reminiscing In Tempo.

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Such Sweet Thunder

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'Creole Rhapsody', Duke's first extended composition. From 1931.

Just love the sound of that band!

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As whole works, I'll go with SUCH SWEET THUNDER, THE QUEEN'S SUITE, FAR EAST SUITE, & SUITE THURSDAY (a rarity in the Ellington canon in being a suite in the "classical" sense of the entire piece bein centered around a single theme, in this case, a two note motif). The last one, though, got a performance on THE GREAT PARIS CONCERT OF DUKE ELLINGTON that pretty much spoiled the studio version for me.

But for individual highlights and/or being favorites in spite of a "lesser" moment or two, add NEW ORLEANS SUITE & AFRO-EURASIAN ECLIPSE to the list, preferably towards the top.

And although I've only heard the sketch version Duke recorded w a scaled-down band, I VERY much like THE RIVER. Too bad there's no "real" versions available by the full band.

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I'm a big fan of Black Brown and Beige.

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And The River as well, that's definitely a good one that should be better known.

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I know it has been much maligned by the critics, but I really love the Ellington "Three Suites" Cd, which includes "The Nutcracker Suite," "Peer Gynt Suite" and "Suite Thursday."

Other Favorites: "The Queen's Suite", "Afro-Eurasian Eclipse"

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Ah, I'd forgotten about AFRO-EURASIAN ECLIPSE, that definitely belongs right at the top.

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Fans of the ECLIPSE should be aware of a Laserlight thing (can't remember the title offhand) that's got an alternate take of "Chinoiserie"(sp?) in which Harold Ashby's solo is considerably more adventurous harmonically than that on the Fantasy version. Well worth the minimal Laserlight price.

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I'm besotted by Black Brown and Beige - the RCA 40s version. I first heard it around 1978 and was totally blown away by it. It gets played regularly and I never tire of it. I also like The Perfume Suite from that era.

The Queen's Suite was the first Ellington I owned. It came out (to general release) just as I was getting into jazz and I was won over by 'Sunrise and the Mockingbird' on the radio.

The Far East Suite is another favourite. Some great clarinet on Ad Lib On Nippon.

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Bearing in mind that "too many tone poems" was the reason given by Rabbit for leaving the Duke in 1951 ( :D ), I'd go for the "Far East Suite". This is partly for reasons of nostalgia, as I got it at the same time as I saw the band live (about 1969, I think).

"Ad Lib On Nippon", as Bev mentioned also, is my favorite piece on that album. Great clarinet, and "The Piano Player" has a fine solo, too.

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I'll add my vote for The Queen's Suite

I think Single Petal of a Rose is one of the most beautiful songs in the Ellington canon. BTW, a really nice version of Single Petal is on Greg Osby's St Louis SHoes CD.

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I'd also add a plug for ' The River'. Black, Brown & Beige is maybe my favourite.

Also like The Perfume Suite, or what bits of it that exist. Red Carpet is another one seldom mentioned.

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When and on what label etc was the "Queens suite" issued, i never heard of it :(

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Pablo.

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Now available as

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This is not the original recording though, which was a privately pressed recording purportedly only for the Queen herself (though you know the Duke had copies for some other of his royal ladies spirited away). . . .

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I was under the impression that this WAS the original/only recording of the suite; that Ellington only had one copy PRESSED, but that this was the recording from whence that pressing sprung. Stanley Dance's LP liner notes certainly imply that, althought they don't say so specifically.

No matter, it's a marvelous work, and the band, early 1959, is superb. A "must have" in my book.

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I don't think so. . . I'll see if I can find out for sure.

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Well, from what I can quickly tell (and hey, I'm supposed to be at work auditing work orders in this verdamnt new computer system we bought. . . a pig in a poke if you ask me!) you sir are correct! My bad memory at work. . . Here's one blurb I found:

In 1958, Ellington took his orchestra to an arts festival in Leeds. There, he was introduced to Queen Elizabeth at a reception, and each party appeared to be charmed by the other. Upon his return to New York, Ellington decided to express his admiration in his own regal way---he recorded The Queen's Suite at his own expense and had a single pressing made and delivered to Buckingham Palace. He never sanctioned the recording's release during his lifetime.

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Well, yeah. That doesn't say that he destroyed the tapes or anything like that, right? Just that he never sanctioned their release during his lifetime. Well sir, the Pablo album came out in 1976, so...

Still, there is a grey area, isn't there? I'm inclined to believe that this is the recording that was pressed into that single petal of a rose (sorry....) if for no other reason than the band is WAY more in tune and together in their attacks and releases and dynamics and all that stuff than usual, which leads me to believe that this was a "special" recording session and not a "workshop" date. But I could be wrong.

I do know this much though, I was ALL OVER this album when it was released, because I had Ben doing "Single Petal Of A Rose" in duet on one of those Impulse! DEFINITIVE JAZZ SCENE compilations that was long OOP, and other than that, I had heard nothing else from the suite. But that one piece was just SO beautiful and moving that I figured that the whole suite performed by the full band just HAD to be a mother. And when I bought the album, ran home with it, and playedit, I was not disappointed. When John McDonough gave it a 3.5 star review in DB and compared Duke's writing on "The Queen's Suite" to Henry Mancini(!), I just about got into the car and drove to Chicago to punch him out personally (you think I'm opinionated NOW... :g ). In a long list of flat-out ignorant Down Beat reviews, THAT one ranks in the uppermost echelon, to be sure.

BTW, do the OJC liner notes reprint Dances' liner essay from the LP? In them, he tells of how Duke came to meet the Queen. Pretty funny (not laugh out loud funny, but amusing, nevertheless, I think) stuff.

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