Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
Concert in the Virgin Islands
Genres: Jazz, Pop
Fine originals played by one of Ellington's best orchestras
Andrew R. Weiss | Raleigh, NC USA | 10/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ellington's recordings for Reprise Records, of which this is one, have a special quality. The orchestra was one of his best -- trumpets were Cootie Williams, Cat Anderson, Roy Burrows, and Ray Nance on cornet and violin; trombones were Lawrence Brown, Buster Cooper and Chuck Connors; reeds were the Mighty Five -- Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Gonsalves and Harry Carney; the bassist was still Ernie Shepard, one of Ellington's best and right up there with Jimmy Woode; and on drums, an ever-swinging and increasingly supple Sam Woodyard. The sound is smooth, full of character and color depending on what Duke and Billy Strayhorn want to show us.
The quality of the compositions on this album, while not Ellington at his peak, is generally high. While Eillington did put out some pop-culture albums for Reprise (like "Ellington '65", with its greatest-hits-of-the-year, or "Will Big Bands Ever Come Back", with Ellington's take on many big-band theme songs), this isn't one of them. The music here is generally laid-back, especially the Virgin Islands Suite, which is four short movements with a distinct Carribean flair, and has lovely features for Hamilton's clarinet and Nance's violin. The remaining tracks showcase the different band members in various guises, in the same way Ellington did starting in the 1930's. The playing is generally inspired, and the band swings like mad.
This may not rise to the heights of "Afro-Bossa", Ellington's first Reprise album which I consider to be one of his best theme- or concept-albums ever, but that is mostly because of Ellington's use of some old material here (where Afro-Bossa is new material from start to finish). This should be an essential purchase for any Ellington aficionado, and for anyone interested in large jazz orchestras at their best.
The sound is excellent, as was the original LP: clean, clear, rich and detailed, without any harshness, and with a great dynamic range.
Buy this and have some fun."
Correction - it's a studio recording, not live, but great st
Denver Jazz Fan | Denver, CO USA | 07/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A lot of reviewers panned this recording, but you must take it in perspective. In 1965, Ellington was penning a lot of long concept pieces. By comparison, this is a collection of top-notch big band music. The reviewers were disappointed that it did not fit with the repertoire he was otherwise producing at the time.
The concept for this album is that this is a set of tunes that Ellington would have played, had he performed a Concert in the Virgin Islands. But it was recorded in the studio, not in the Virgin Islands. The fidelity is better than most digitally mastered CDs of today, because it is free of the artifical gimmicry that's used to over-brighten modern recordings.
The first four tunes represent the "Virgin Island Suite". "Island Virgin" gets us off to a relaxed start, featuring some very nicely built structures with the reed section and short statements by the soloists. This is followed by "Virgin Jungle" where you can imagine a hunt and chase going on, the prey hiding behind trees and rocks. This tune is led by the clarinet and has some marvelous minor-key work in it (who was his clarinet man in '65?). In the "For What It's Worth" department, I heard Phil Woods' alto saxophone in a quartet setting doing this number and there sure is a lot of melody to wring out of it! "Fiddler on the Diddle" showcases the too-rarely-heard violin of Ray Nance in a call-and-response format with the orchestra, with more of a "let's think about it" feel than anything else. Finally, "Jungle Kitty" is the high energy romp through the jungle, with Cat Anderson's trumpet playing the role of a very boppish Kitty, the tune closing with a tritone up and down wail.
The remaining numbers are excellent reads of standards from the Ellington repertoire, mixed with a few new ones. "Big Fat Alice's Blues" features Johnny Hodges, and if anybody asks you what the blues should sound like, just play that tune. The reading of "Chelsea Bridge" is equally profound. "The Opener" is as classic a big band swing tune as you'll find anywyere, "Things Ain't What They Used To Be" swings as hard as any rendition of it anywhere and "Barefoot Stomper", "Mysterious Chick" and "Fade Up" are wholly listenable "fill" material that give the soloists good footing.
I recommend it, but please view it as a worthy addition to the repertoire more representative of Ellington in the mid-1940s - just with more polished soloists and the blessing of great recording fidelity."
Duke's Virgin Islands: Sweet!
reading man | 10/15/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"When Duke Ellington returned from his 1965 tour he wrote the Virgin Islands Suite, consisting of the four compositions opening the set. Studio recordings of other music the orchestra performed on location make up the remainder. The album cover presents a lush, tropical panorama through textured nuances of the color green and vivid floral display. The resplendent composer at its center, providing a glimpse of what is to come. The suite is happy and relaxed, the easy gait established by Ray Nance's violin on "Fiddler on the Diddle" and Cat Anderson's range on "Jungle Kitty." There is a Broadway flavor present, Mr. Ellington using word play in titling the tunes to reinforce the "unique, independent" flavor he found in the Islands. He takes this a step further by placing "The Opener" near the end of the program. I enjoyed the thirty-seven minutes immensely. If I had to pick a starting point for anyone interested in this giant's music, this is it."