1967, Music

Far East Suite (1967, 2003) by Duke Ellington

This is a great piece: it’s fun, it’s engaging, it’s remarkably varied and it does sort of feel like a grand statement. But I can’t help but feel like it’s a statement made 3/4s of a decade too late. Though Ellington’s ability to make himself relevant again and to build upon people who built upon him – there is a definite Mingus influence here – is remarkable, there is also the fact that jazz musicians had been flirting with far more radical “eastern” influences for some time. I am thinking specifically of Trane but also the severely under-appreciated Ahmed Abdul-Malik, who was making far less polished – and far less ambitious – “eastern” jazz that was more boundary-breaking than this a good seven years before this record was released. I’m not trying to diminish from this record: I like it a lot. I just think it’s importance has been greatly overstated by people who prefer their jazz in more conservative doses.

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