Reflections on “The Far East Suite” (Podcast #17-007)

Examining different interpretations of Ellington’s Far East Suite Continue reading

This podcast episode features three looks at Ellington/Strayhorn’s Far East Suite. The original, of course and then two interpretations that bend, yet don’t break, the  material to fit their creative impulses and their very different instrumentations.

The Tony Overwater Trio in conjunction with the Calefax Reed Quintet, has no keyboard or brass.

Slavic Soul Party! is in the brass band tradition, with accordion and tuba supplying the rhythm section’s harmonic functions.

Both groups creatively use their unique configurations to add stellar interpretations of the Ellington/Strayhorn canon.

Mount Harissa

“We especially thank Ellington and his colleagues for filling life with beauty and grace when so much was denied to them.”

– from the liner notes from Slavic Soul Party! Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite


ellington and gonsalves in iraq

Paul Gonsalves and Duke Ellington sharing a hookah in Ctesiphon, Iraq during their State Department Tour in 1963.


The Ellington band was broadcast on TV on November 14, 1963 from Khuld Hall, Baghdad, Iraq. The resulting video, “Le Roi du Jazz Americain DUKE ELLINGTON ET SON ORCHESTRE” (The King of American Jazz, Duke Ellington and his Orchestra) is available to view (or download for free, courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration) at this link.



Duke Ellington and the accordion

The recordings heard on this podcast episode:

 treasury show vol 23

Take the “A” Train (CD: “The Treasury Shows, Volume 23” Storyville 9039023)

Recorded 24 August 1946. Radio broadcast from the Meadowbrook Gardens Cafe in Culver City, California

Duke Ellington – piano



Tourist Point of View//Depk//Blue Pepper (Far East of the Blues)//Agra//Amad//Ad Lib on Nippon (CD: “The Far East Suite” Bluebird 7640-2-RB)

Recorded 19-21 December 1966, New York City

Cat Anderson, Herbie Jones, Mercer Ellington, Cootie Williams – trumpets; Lawrence Brown, Chuck Connors, Buster Cooper – trombones; Jimmy Hamilton,  Russell Procope, Johnny Hodges, Paul Gonsalves, Harry Carney – reeds; Duke Ellington – piano; John Lamb– bass; Rufus Jones– drums.



Tourist Point of View//Depk//Agra//Amad//Ad Lib on Nippon (CD: “Ellington Suites” Jazz in Motion Records JIM 75219)

Recorded 16 February 2005, live at the Bimhuis, Amsterdam

Maarten Ornstein – tenor sax; Tony Overwater – bass; Wim Kegel – drums; Oliver Boekhoorn – oboe, English Horn; Ivar Berix – clarinet; Raaf Hekkema – alto sax; Jelte Althuis – bass clarinet; Alban Wesly – bassoon.


slavic soul party

Tourist Point of View//Depk//Blue Pepper//Amad//Ad Lib on Nippon (CD: “Slavic Soul Party! Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite” Ropeadope RAD-314)

Recorded November 2014, live at the Barbes, Brooklyn

John Carlson, Kenny Warren – trumpet; Matt Musselman, Tim Vaughn – trombone; Peter Hess – reeds; Peter Stan – accordion; Ron Caswell – tuba; Chris Stormquist, Matt Moran – percussion.