Duke Ellington’s swing is brought to life as the UMO Jazz Orchestra and Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra join forces once again. The programme includes the classic album Symphonic Ellington and its iconic musical description of Harlem. Antti Rissanen conducts the orchestras as they take on familiar and fresher arrangements of the music of the jazz giant.
The Symphonic Ellington
Duke Ellington is an artist whose name carries with it some remarkable weight. He topped massive expectations time and again, raising the bar for big band jazz especially as a composer and arranger. The Symphonic Ellington, first released in 1963, does not make an exception to this rule.
It had been a long time dream for Ellington to record and album using his big band with a symphony orchestra. Perhaps that why it feels that he is tackling the task at hand with all guns blazing.
Many of Duke’s top stars, such as sax men Paul Gonsalves and Johnny Hodges, plus cornet player Ray Nance feature of the album. Sam Woodyard’s work on the drums is a revelation. Just listen to Stalking Monster, the second movement of the three-part Night Creature to witness some magical interplay with Duke and Sam on piano and drums, respectively.
We hear four symphony orchestras across the six tracks: Paris, Stockholm, Hamburg and La Scala. It takes extraordinary skill and confidence to keep the extended ensemble swinging and their sound crisp and light enough. Hearing the album, still an inspiration in the present day, it is evident that Ellington was well up to the task.
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