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New Orleans Suite
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Coming late in Ellington's career, this is almost unsurpassed in even his own output for its high level of intensity and deeply spiritual mood. From the outset, the great 'Blues for New Orleans' sets the tone - a powerful, soulful set of Blues choruses from the great blues master, Johnny Hodges (playing on what was to be his last recording). Ellington then moves on to a set of 'portraits' of great New Orleans musicians, in which stirring and sometimes humorous tributes are paid to, amongst others, Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. Throughout particularly the later part of his career, Ellington tried, often disastrously, to bring a religious element to his work (the embarrassingly bad 'sacred concerts' being all the more awful for having been written by someone of Ellington's stature). But here, there is no doubting the power of the man's work.
Nwe Orleans Suite is awesome - listen and hear for yourself!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 16 February 2010
This is probably the recording that convinced me that there is life after rock and pop. Nonetheless, it took some time for me to adjust to it. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Duke Ellington's public persona is of the big band leader writing popular and populist tunes. 'New Orleans Suite' shocked me out of this notion. Occasionally, the sound of the big band appears, but more often than not this music defies classification, and perhaps that's the whole point. Ellington is one of the greats because he cannot be pigeon-holed.

This is one of my favourite Ellington records. We do not often hear the organ or the flute in his orchestra and they are two instruments that, to my taste, work wonderfully well in jazz bands when played well, as they are here. Wild Bill Davis provides a great deal of the thrills in the languid opening song 'Blues for New Orleans'. Other stand-outs for me are 'Thanks For The Beautiful Land On The Delta', 'Second Line', 'Portrait Of Sidney Bechet' and 'Portrait Of Mahalia Jackson' (flute to the fore). There is a compelling sense of urgency about the whole recording. Even when it appears, as in the case of 'Portrait Of Wellman Braud' that Ellington has dealt his players a hand that is just a little bit too tricky (pity the poor bass player!), and the whole house of cards is about to topple, everything is pulled together. Listen closely to the last song, 'Portrait Of Mahalia Jackson' and you will hear all sorts of weird noises going on in the background, and yet the overall effect, to my ears at least, is majestic and betrays the sense of melancholy that affects so much of Ellington's music.

Johnny Hodges, for so long a star turn of the Ellington orchestra and such a key part of its sound, died during the recording of 'New Orleans Suite' and, in a strange sort of way, this sets it apart. Rather than being a vehicle for soloists, these songs are ensemble pieces, and all the better for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 5 August 2014
As a schoolboy jazz fanatic in the early 60s , I saw the Ellington band play Newcastle City Hall . I was reminded of the experience when I saw Usain Bolt in the warmup area before the 2008 Olympic 100 metre final . Every other runner wore a special suit designed to maintain a certain body temperature and they were all doing pre race exercises . Bolt wore an old pair of trackie bottoms and wandered around looking bored . The Ellington band were quite a contrast to the slick professional Count Basie outfit I had seen shortly before . They wandered onstage in shabby suits making little effort to disguise their boredom . Johnny Hodges ( aka Rabbit ) spent most of the night picking his nose and from time to time would come down to the front to blow a solo . His eyes were open as he played and he looked at us all with utter disdain . If you closed your eyes and did not look at this little man , who did actually look like a rabbit , you heard the singing of angels from his saxophone . Rabbit died during the making of this album . He is majestic on the opening Blues For New Orleans and his sax floating over the ocean like swell of Wild Bill Davis' organ is a pure delight . The rest of the album falls slightly below the olympian standard of this track but is pretty good all the same . A good starting point for jazz virgins . On that point and since these reviews are supposed to provide information I should correct the following errors from other reviews - Duke Ellington came from Washington DC and had nothing much to do with New Orleans ; Rabbit played alto sax and not clarinet ; Harry Carney played baritone sax ( a reed ) and not trumpet ( brass ) . Sorry to sound pedantic - just enjoy the music .
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 2010
Although Duke Ellington re-recorded a lot of his early hits later in his career he still continued to record new material. This was often in the form of suites - some of which are better than others. New Orleans suite (1970) was one of his last attempts and is an interesting album with flashes of the old magic. Some of the old stars are heard on the album and are still playing well, it was Johnny Hodges last recording, but the younger players in the band also give it a slight contemporary feel, especially with regard to the drumming.

My favourite track is Portrait of Wellman Braud, a tribute to one of the early Ellington bassists, it's driven by a superb bass line which unfortunately isn't quite executed right. The track does however features some piercing muted trumpet and sly clarinet work that are reminiscent of early Ellington. Second line and Thanks for the beautiful land of the delta have a certain edginess to them that works well. Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies highlights Ellington's skill in writing relaxed mournful melodies and show's that he was still willing to experiment towards the end of his career as it features a flute soloist - a first for Ellington. Overall the album is engaging with some strong writing and interesting playing: a late-Ellington album that is definately worth a listen.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Recorded as he neared the end of his long life, `New Orleans Suite' is a magnificent testament to Duke Elegant's home town.

Embracing both its rich musical history and its present (recorded in 1971, there is a distinct funk flavour in the opening track courtesy of Wild Bill Davis' organ), this one album, for me, sums up New Orleans in nine wonderful tracks.

As well as the look forward to the future, there is a sense of loss for recently departed stars and a musical eulogy for the times past that will never return again. Ellington must have known he didn't have long left, his musical alter ego Billy Strayhorn had recently passed away, and Johnny Hodges, a mainstay of the Ellington Orchestra for so many years, sadly passed on while the album was being recorded. This is an album that mourns their loss, recognises that things are changing, yet celebrates the future and what is to come.

As well as evoking the city and its musical heritage, this album contains a series of musical portraits of well known jazz figures associated with New Orleans. My personal favourite is the portrait of Louis Armstrong. At once celebrating his life and music, and mourning his recent passing. The melody is perfect, the writing and playing exquisite. When listening I can almost see Satchmo playing, and picture his dazzling grin. It's amazing how a piece of music can draw such a clear picture of someone on the mind's eye.

Similarly the portrait of Sidney Bechet is wonderfully evocative, celebrating the great improviser's contribution to the early days of jazz. It is a tragedy that clarinettist Hodges died two days before it was recorded, Ellington wrote the tune with him in mind, and as we all know part of Ellington's genius was to construct pieces for particular players. It's a great track as is, but what could it have been?

This Atlantic Masters release is up to the usual standards of the series. The sound is nice and clear, with a sympathetic remastering which to my untutored ear sounds pretty good. There is a nice booklet with the original liner notes and a new essay. And the original artwork, a fittingly ghostly, fading picture of Ellington, which sums up the way he was coming to the end of his career and fading form the contemporary music scene is nicely reproduced.

Elegant, touching, poignant music, an absolute jazz classic that sums up the whole New Orleans scene. A classic album that is a must for any music lover's collection.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon 23 May 2014
The opening track of this stupendous suite by the genius that was Duke Ellington is overwhelming - and that`s only the first number! It`s called Blues For New Orleans, and it has all of the city and its astonishing history within it. Well, most of it, or there wouldn`t be any need for the remaining eight tracks. Featured on it is organist Wild Bill Davis, and he`s magnificent, as is the bass playing of Joe Benjamin.
This was a slightly smaller band of musicians than we`re used to from earlier Ellington dates, with some of his old allies dead or moved on. Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Cootie Williams, and Russel Procope are present and very correct, though Hodges sadly died two days before the four `portraits` were recorded.
Bourbon Street Jingling Jollies is wonderful after the grave austerity of the opening number, then the swinging Portrait Of Louis Armstrong kicks in, Cootie Williams a gleaming marvel on - what else? - trumpet.
The whole suite is impeccable, but special mention must go to the closing Portrait Of Mahalia Jackson. This is one of the most wonderful five minutes of Ellington`s long career. With Williams, Gonsalves, flautist Norris Turney, and Julian Priester on trombone all soloing, it`s a suitably magisterial salute to the great gospel belter, as well as a dignified farewell to the city celebrated in this tremendous music.

Endlessly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 April 2014
'New Orleans Suite' released in 1970 is a superb example of late period orchestrated big band Ellington. Beset as he was with the death of valued band mates such as Billy Strayhorn and Johnny Hodges and the natural deprecations of old age, Ellington was still able to produce the sort of memorable, fresh and wholly involving music we get here. From the great organ led 'Blues for New Orleans' to the enticing 'Portrait of Sidney Bechet' there is a so much to enjoy on this disc that only repeated listening will reveal all the beauties on offer. Likewise the solo power of the band remains undiminished and there are numerous examples of great playing throughout this disc, witness Harry Carney's trumpet playing on 'Aristocracy a la Jean Latfitte',exquisite. This is a definitely a disc that a fan of Ellington and of Big Band Jazz will want to have in their collection. Yet the emotional power and quality of composition of the music raises this set way beyond merely entertaining jazz to a form more deep, personal and profound.
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 30 July 2007
Produced in 1970 this is Duke Ellington's tribute to New Orleans and some of its famous sons. Don't expect much in the way of a happy and light "trad" jazz sound from the orchestra's famous front men. It starts well enough with Blues for New Orleans and the Cootie Wiliams behind the beat emulation of Louis Armstrong is cleverly done. But to my mind, rather too many of the other tracks are in sombre or heavy mood - not helped by two tracks featuring flute. All this, however, has particular poignancy in that Johnny Hodges died whilst the suite was in the making. Some argue that without his exquisite alto playing, the orchestra never sounded quite the same. The work is certainly different and it grows on you, but big band lovers looking for a more orthodox Ellington should probably first try the likes of The Great Paris Concert, Blues in Orbit and Mellow.
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Its a beautiful tribute. Very Good CD!
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on 12 February 2015
Fine CD, fine music.
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