A classic, but yet another remaster?
Blues Bro | Lakewood, Colorado USA | 08/16/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The previous version 'special mix' sounded preety good to my ears. This one sounds a little better, but you could do with the 'special mix' version. Some alternate takes were not included here, but they put as much as you can in a one CD album. But if you are buying this album for the first time, this is the version to get."
C. Whittle | Atlanta | 10/05/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a classically trained clarinetist, I hate jazz clarinet, as a rule. But I have to make an exception in Jimmy Hamilton's case on Bluebird of Delhi. His sound is brilliant, mature and confident, and his technique is outstanding. He gives the clarinet a good name - in 1966 of all times. That piece is a highlight in a disc full of highlights.
Far East Suite is delightful from start to finish. Forty years later a lot of it sounds like spy music - maybe James Bond theme music, or maybe Las Vegas lounge style - but that's not a bad thing! Tourist Point of View is laid back, showcasing Paul Gonsalves' amazing tenor sax, tasteful as always.
The world class sax work from Gonsalves and Johnny Hodges continues throughout, but in my eyes Harry Carney deserves special notice. From personal experience I can say that it's hard to make a bari sax sound good, much less sweet or sexy. But Carney does all the above, particularly in track 7, Agra. It is a concerto for bari sax that might change your mind about what the instrument can do.
But then Agra leads into Amad, which is so rhythmically compelling it's hard to sit still listening to it. It is a sinuous fluid demonstration of the Duke's ideas of a rhythm section composed of every instrument in his band - with a typically assertive piano line. Lawrence Brown's trombone shines.
Ad Lib on Nippon is tour de force, and contains some absolutely top shelf clarinet work at the end, amongst its other charms.
The seven bonus tracks on this disc are noteworthy. I've listened to the two bonus Bluebirds more than the others. While I can agree with the original choice, the other two are still great. I think Hamilton was a little off his game on track 12, but track 13 is technically excellent. The Duke chose a bit slower tempo though, and Hamilton was perfect, but less adventurous than in the cut which made the final album. Everyone loves to hear the artists perform, but it's also great to listen to them at work, and these bonus tracks are just that.
And for the trumpet fans, there are brains all over the bandstand in this disc, because these guys blow their heads off repeatedly. I'm pretty sure they played some notes that weren't even invented in 1966."
Anorher Jazz 101 must
Neal Horwitz | Singapore | 11/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"What is the litmus test of good art? It should hold up well-or very well-over time, and one goes back,again and again, to read, or view, or listen, discovering something new each time.
So it is with The Far East Suite, and for those who are not familiar with Ellington's many Suites, a good starting point.
The band was in excellent form, and the songs are ageless. The Strayhorn/Ellington collaborative art form was at its apex.
Time is given to let the musicians stretch, and Hodges even tosses in some blues honking-but everyone is at the top of their game; Gonsalves, Hamilton, Carney, and the unsung hero of the LP, Rufus Jones, who made it swing like mad with outstanding drumming.
By the way, one can now see versions of "Isfahan" and "Agra" on YouTube,allowing another insight to the players; Hodges, as usual, never showing a hint of emotion, Carney with his circular breathing. Amazing players and amazing songs.Mt Harissa, Amad,Blue Pepper..None got much airtime, if at all, but highlights the depth of composition and colour.
One small piece of trivia. Isfahan, (which is pure poetry, and cannot be improved upon) was written by Strayhorn years before the band ever went to the Far East; it was originally called "Elf."
If you don't yet have this, get it, Should be part of everyone's collection of Ellingtonia.