Such Sweet Thunder Import
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これに対抗するのが「ロミオとジュリエット」の9「The Star-Crossed Lovers」。この曲はホントに美しい。この胸が苦しくなるような悲しみをたたえた美しさは一体何なんだろ？この曲は数あるエリントンナンバーの中で、ジョニー・ホッジスがソロをとる最も美しい曲であろう。
Let me start with a brief overview of what's on the disc. Such Sweet Thunder is a 12-part suite that Ellington co-wrote with long-time collaborator Billy Strayhorn. Ellington and his Orchestra premiered the work in April 1957. The disc includes not only the the suite in it's entirety (about 35 minutes of music), but 10 bonus tracks that are a mix of alternate takes and other music from (I gather) around the same time. Duke really does have an orchestra here: the ensemble is 15 musicians in total, including Duke on the piano.
The music is just wonderful. Ellington, Strayhorn, and Orchestra really put everything they've got on display. "Such Sweet Thunder" is sly and ominous, "Lady Cinq" is a swinging, dancey tune, "Star Crossed Lovers" is melancholy (and beautiful), "Circle of Fourths" is driving and brassy. Every part of the orchestra gets a feature part, and Duke and Strayhon blend instruments to get great color and mood. I'm a big fan of classical music, and I think many of the best orchestrators (Ravel, Tchaikovsky, etc) would be jealous of what Ellington & Co. accomplish in this music--there is a tremendous range of colors, harmonies, melodies and emotions.
The bonus tracks are pretty good, as well. I particularly like "Cafe au Lait," a bouncy tune reminiscent of earlier (pre-WWII) big band music. On the whole, the sound quality is good. Although most tracks are in mono (the liner notes explain that an attempt at recording in stereo didn't turn out well), the sound is crisp with each of the sections (piano, drums, winds, etc) clear and balanced against other parts of the orchestra.
Overall, I think this is a must have for any music lover. Ellington is one of the greatest artists of the 20th century and this album shows him and his Orchestra (and Strayhon) at the peak of their powers.
I've ordered two copies of the Columbia/Sony CD and been disheartened in both instances. Arguably Duke's greatest work, "Such Sweet Thunder" is also especially useful for illustrating the essence of Ellington's genius, especially his writing for individual "tonal personalities," or instrumental "voices," as much as generic saxes, brass, rhythm. No where is the emphasis on the individual voice of the musician more striking than on "Up and Down," the piece inspired by "Midsummer Night's Dream." On the original LP, Duke assigns the role of Puck to Clark Terry, who literally makes his flugelhorn "speak" the words "Lord, what fools these mortals be." It's the most memorable moment on a recording rich with nuanced, subtle characterizations and complex ensembles of interacting dramatis personae.
Unfortunately, the Sony/Columbia reissue, despite lavish production values, numerous extra tracks, lots of scholarship, essays, archival research, etc., manages to preserve the "wrong" version of "Up and Down." Terry plays a respectable-sounding lick at the end of the tune, but nothing resembling the Puck-specific statement of the original. To make matters worse, the producers of the album show no awareness of their colossal gaffe, despite including two earlier essays (one from the original album) that single out Terry's Puck quote as a highlight. Instead the album makers seem so impressed with their discovery of stereo vs. monaural tapes, of tracks recorded with or without "ambient" sound, that the musical "content" all but eludes them.
Spanish reissues have come to the rescue on many occasions. Whether or not they do so again, I'll report back. If they fail, and if you no longer play LPs, you still must have some version of this essential Ellington work and may as well go with the Columbia/Sony edition (though because of the defect, I'd put ahead of it: "Three Suites" (including the priceless Ellington "Nutcracker") and "Ellington at Newport '56" (the most impressive job of digital restoration I've ever come across).
In the meantime, consider getting the old turntable back in shape. This is one of those rare examples of a vinyl recording that could go up in value. (Duke's "A Drum Is a Woman" is another.")