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Such Sweet Thunder

4.7 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Audio CD, 10 May 1999
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Product details

  • Audio CD (10 May 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Columbia Legacy
  • ASIN: B0000257FK
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 9,123 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)
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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Such Sweet Thunder (Cleo)
  2. Sonnet For Caesar
  3. Sonnet To Hank Cinq
  4. Lady Mac
  5. Sonnet In Search Of A Moor
  6. The Telecasters
  7. "Up And Down, Up And Down (I Will Lead Them Up And Down)(Puck)"
  8. Sonnet For Sister Kate
  9. The Star-Crossed Lovers (aka Pretty Girl)
  10. Madness In Great Ones (Hamlet)
  11. Half The Fun (aka Lately)
  12. Circle Of Fourths
  13. The Star-Crossed Lovers (aka Pretty Girl)
  14. Circle Of Fourths
  15. Suburban Beauty
  16. A Flat Minor
  17. Cafe Au Lait
  18. Half The Fun (aka Lately)
  19. Suburban Beauty
  20. A Flat Minor
  21. Cafe Au Lait
  22. Pretty Girl (aka The Star-Crossed Lovers)
  23. Pause Track

Product description

Product description

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Such Sweet Thunder was, like Black, Brown and Beige and the later Far East Suite and other works of the late-1950s and on, a long-form study broken into identifiable miniatures that could stand alone as tunes. But this one was far more unlikely than Ellington and co-composer Billy Strayhorn's other suites, with its focus on characters developed by William Shakespeare. Pieces were scripted for both centuries-old characters and Ellington band members; for example, Paul Gonsalves's tenor sax and Johnny Hodges's alto parry as a musical Romeo and Juliet on "Star-Crossed Lovers". Surely this description of the CD makes it sound stiff, even pretentious, but the music gives the lie to such an assumption. Ellington was a master of sectional polyphony, making sure his band's sections swung individually and then in tandem with the other sections, creating a powerful, sometimes swirling swing. But he had Strayhorn, who was also a master of creating moods and ambient textures. And that's where this session becomes fascinating, in the moments when the group creates something other than rhythmic propulsion, standard harmony or even focused melody. Rounding out the original LP issue--which accounts for only half of this CD's length--are a host of alternate takes, three of them wholly or partially unreleased until this set. --Andrew Bartlett

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Notwithstanding the fact that you can pick up any Duke Ellington record and find hidden gems or orchestral writing which continues to reveal different aspects upon repeated listening, "Such sweet thunder" perhaps offers one of Ellington and Strayhorn's most overtly Western suites, Recorded 60 years ago, the writing on this record seems startlingly modern, tracks like "Sonnet for Caesar" or "up and down, up and down" involving quite strident harmonies and a reluctance for things to resolve. This is probably the best example of Ellington's music coming out of the same musical world of the early 20th century and a reminder that the more serious works by Ellington and Strayhorn need to be looked at in a broader context as opposed to a more narrow comparison with what was happening in jazz at that time. Most of the compositions are under the 4 minute mark in duration and whilst the usual crop of soloists such as Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Clark Terry and Jimmy Hamilton all feature, it is the shear originality of this music which grabs the attention. There are a few numbers such as the confident swagger of the title track which was based on the character of Cleopatra. Nearly all the compositions take their cues from Shakespearean characters with the closing "circle of fourths" honouring the Bard himself with some furious, albeit brief, tenor by Paul Gonsalves. The biggest criticism of the record is that Ellington and Strayhorn were clearly inspired by the playwright and it was a shame that they ran out of time to fulfil their commission and include dedications to other celebrated characters. The omission of a dedication to the colourful Sir John Falstaff is a disappointment for me and you simply wish that there had been more of the same on this record.Read more ›
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Essential replacement for my damaged 33 vinyl which I've loved and treasured for more than fifty years. I can now educate my grandchildren.
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No, if it weren't for the liner notes I would NEVER have guessed that Shakespeare is the inspiration for Ellington's (and Strayhorn's) work here. But, it of small consequence to my listening enjoyment. Mature composer/arranger, Ellington reaches yet another of his peaks ("Blues in Orbit", "Black Brown&Beige", "Uptown", "Jazz Party"...) one can never get tired of.

Aided by the usual pack of great players - Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves... - the big band gives a richness of emotion, wide array of tones and musical innuendo;
something for every Ellington fan, recommendable to fans of swing and modern jazz alike.
The bonus tracks give additional pleasure.
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Format: Audio CD
This album is a fine example of the compositional talents of Duke Ellington and his alter ego, Billy Strayhorn. The atmosphere created by the arrangements is quite special, and certainly unique. Each track takes for inspiration a character from Shakespeare and the tunes themselves range from orchestral set pieces designed for atmosphere (Sam Woodyards drums are an education) to settings for some truely incredible solo performances, particularly from Johnny Hodges who will melt your heart with "star crossed lovers" in a performance that stamps his authority on the alto ballad.
On a more general note, I do find it frustrating to hear some jazz fans describe Ellingtons best as being over come the 1940s. This is absolutely untrue. Albums like this, along with Anatomy of a Murder, the Far East Suite and the New Orleans Suite, show how Ellington had matured as a composer and how he could write for the individual musicans in his orchestra, all of whom, when they wanted to be, were amoung the finest to play thier respective instruments.
If you have never heard this music before i think you will be suprised. If you have heard it before, this release, with its bonus tracks and informative liner notes, is certainly worth the money. Enjoy!
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The recording was as I expected it to be
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The thing I like about modern CD reissues is the way that one gets extra tracks at no extra cost. I'm not a connoisseur of swing like the friend who recommended I buy this, my taste is more 20's than 40's, but I will say that I find this disc wonderful. Unless you tend to buy your jazz in organised volumes, this disc will suit you well.
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