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Far East Suite by Duke Ellington Orchestra

Vincent Henar from the band Fra Fra Sound maintains that Jazz was the first "world music" - though the music originated in America from the clash/co-mingling of cultures, Jazz was embraced by the world as much as it embraced the world itself. While The Duke was not the first jazz musician to integrate ethnic elements into a jazz context, he did a super-fine job of it with Far East Suite. Inspired by a tour of the Middle East and Japan, Ellington does not go for an ethno-"fusion" per se, but instead works impressions of his travels and sounds heard while passing through into his unique compositional style. While most Swing Era big band leaders were trotting out nostalgia to the faithful, Ellington had one of the best editions of his orchestra and one of his most creative periods in the mid-to-late 60s. The compositions have a tang to them that sounds intentionally exotic yet never condescending, all the while ultimately sounding timeless and unique to The Duke. The band is bright and inspired, especially alto sax demigod Johnny Hodges and clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton, and the digital remastering is the s**t. Plus there are seven bonus tracks, five of which were not previously released. Pick hit: "Blue Pepper," a swinging march down the Nile where The Duke’s men go Sun Ra one better. FES is not only a must for fans of All Things Dukal, but for those that think wild large-band sounds are solely the territory of Gil Evans, Carla Bley, Anthony Braxton and the Ra.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Duke Ellington Orchestra
  • CD Title: Far East Suite
  • Genre: Big Band / Swing
  • Year Released: 2003
  • Reissue Original Release: 1966
  • Record Label: Bluebird Jazz
  • Rating: Five Stars
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