Delfeayo Marsalis | Sweet Thunder

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Duke Ellington Harry Connick, jr. Wynton Marsalis

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Jazz: Mainstream Jazz Jazz: Post-Bop Moods: Type: Instrumental
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Sweet Thunder

by Delfeayo Marsalis

A re-imagining of Ellington's tribute to William Shakespeare, this recording is soulful, emotional, swinging and a purely class outing. Instant classic that captures the essence of all that is great about jazz! The finest musicians today in top form!
Genre: Jazz: Mainstream Jazz
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Such Sweet Thunder (Feat. Winard Harper, Branford Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, Mark Gross -, Tiger Okoshi, Jason Marshall & Reginald Veal)
6:04 $0.99
2. Sonnet for Sister Kate (feat. Mark Gross, Jason Marshall, Victor Goines, Jason Marsalis, Reginald Veal & Winard Harper)
2:38 $0.99
3. Sonnet to Hank Cinq (Feat. Mark Shim, Tiger Okoshi, Mark Gross, Jason Marshall, Victor "Red" Atkins, Winard Harper & David Pulphus)
4:46 $0.99
4. Half the Fun (feat. Branford Marsalis, Mark Gross, Tiger Okoshi, Jason Marshall, Victor "Red" Atkins, David Pulphus & Winard Harper)
9:23 $1.49
5. Up & Down, Up & Down (Feat. Tiger Okoshi, Victor "Red" Atkins, Charnette Moffett, Winard Harper, Victor Goines, Mark Gross & Jason Marshall)
3:05 $0.99
6. Madness in Great Ones (Feat. Victor "Red" Atkins, Charnette Moffett, Jason Marsalis, Mark Gross, Jason Marshall, Tiger Okoshi & Victor Goines)
5:06 $0.99
7. Star-Crossed Lovers (Feat. Mulgrew Miller, Mark Gross, David Pulphus, Reginald Veal, Winard Harper, Winard Harper & Jason Marshall)
6:26 $0.99
8. Sonnet In Search of A Moor (Feat. Mark Gross, Victor "Red" Atkins, Charnette Moffett, Jason Marsalis, Winard Harper, Victor Goines & Jason Marshall)
8:08 $0.99
9. The Telecasters (feat. Tiger Okoshi, Mulgrew Miller, Mark Gross, Branford Marsalis, Jason Marshall, David Pulphus & Jason Marsalis)
5:35 $0.99
10. Sonnet for Caesar (Feat. Branford Marsalis, Mark Gross, Jason Marshall, David Pulphus, Jason Marsalis, Victor "Red" Atkins & Tiger Okoshi)
7:52 $1.49
11. Lady Mac (Feat. Mark Gross, Charnette Moffett, Victor "Red" Atkins, Winard Harper, Victor Goines, Jason Marshall & Tiger Okoshi)
3:36 $0.99
12. Circle of Fourths (feat. Mark Shim, Victor "Red" Atkins, Charnette Moffett, Jason Marsalis, Jason Marshall, Reginald Veal & Winard Harper)
8:19 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder is a classic musical tribute to the most consistent and poetic writer of the English language, William Shakespeare. By 1956, many European composers had used a single Shakespearean play or personality as inspiration for a symphonic poem, opera, or incidental music, but none had tried to encapsulate the flavor of various characters and works in one composition. Understanding his own strengths, those of his illustrious orchestra and the power of Shakespeare’s words, Ellington sought to pay homage to the author in a uniquely comprehensive fashion. The resultant masterpiece is a 12-movement suite that Ellington himself described as an “attempt to parallel the vignettes of some of the Shakespearean characters in miniature–sometimes to the point of caricature.” Though long-time associate Billy Strayhorn composed three movements, the suite’s overall concept and structural design is clearly that of the master Ellington.
The Bard and the Duke. There are a number of similarities between Shakespeare and Ellington. Neither was formally trained at a university, yet both perplexed the university wits; each drew from his personal experiences for performance material; each had a profound impact on his chosen medium; each was a genius. Shakespeare was an actor as well as a dramatist; Ellington was a performer as well as a composer. Both had a keen understanding of human nature, led a fertile and productive artistic life, and communicated a range of emotions and values. Both wrote for all levels of society, from royalty to pauper. Both wrote for performance, not publication. Like Shakespeare, Ellington deployed his players like actors on a stage.

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would certainly be a jazz fan himself–he’d appreciate the combination of team spirit and informality, of academic knowledge and humor, of all elements that go into a great jazz performance. Above all else, Shakespeare would have appreciated the Maestro, Duke Ellington.

* * * * * * * * * *

As a scholar of the Bard and the Duke and having written a master's thesis on the connection between Ellington and Shakespeare, Delfeayo has a profound understanding of both legends and it shows in this work. Again, this is not a moldy regurgitation of the original. Instead of working with a full Ellington sized big band, Mr. Marsalis employs an octet; resulting in a sound that is leaner, but tighter. Delfeayo's band swings as hard (or I daresay, even harder than the Ellington band, in some instances) but loses nothing in the richness of the sound, which is a testament to Marsalis' judicious arrangements, which retain an Ellington flavor but consistently avoid slavish recreation.

The difference grabs you right away on the opener/title track, which is a bit more infectious and up-tempo than the original; riding atop Reginald Veal's walking bass and a backbeat set by one of the baddest drummers working today, Winard Harper. Big brother Branford contributes a lyrical soprano sax turn that sets up Delfeayo's muscular Al Grey influenced `bone solo and Mulgrew Miller's piano statement.

The most impressive tracks are the ones where Marsalis expounds on the sections that in Ellington's original recording were virtual interludes; such as "Sonnet to Hank Cinq". Marsalis' version is faithful in spirit to Ellington's original, but gives a lot more room for the soloists to play, which is great news for us, as Delfeayo, and the saxophone trio of Mark Shim, Mark Gross and Jason Marshall are on fire.

"Sonnet in Search of a Moor" is transformed from a melancholy bass feature into a boppish burnout. It's led by Delfeayo's Fuller-esque trombone, Victor "Red" Atkins electrifying piano, Victor Goines red hot tenor and Jason (little brother) Marsalis' explosive time keeping.

IMHO, the best track hands down, is "Circle of Fourths". Originally a brief Paul Gonsalves throwaway, it has been reborn as over nine minutes of breathless modern jazz. Meters and keys change on a dime as the tension between the rhythm section and Delfeayo's and Shim's solos, builds. The horn players want to break "free" but Charnett Moffett (bass) and Jason Marsalis are keeping them with one foot barely on the ground. Good Stuff!

If you are a staunch keeper of the Ellington tradition, this will probably not be your cup of tea. If you like your Duke with a little spice, you'll like Delfeayo Marsalis' Sweet Thunder. We get great Ellington & Strayhorn compositions, played by some of today's most creative jazzmen, who present many fresh ideas. It's a triumph for Delfeayo Marsalis, who is an inventive arranger, an extremely gifted trombone player and an artist with vision.

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear Delfeayo

You have walked a tightrope and kept your balance from start to finish. I started listening last night a bit tentatively because I know (and love) every lick of the original. But it felt good. I heard echoes and reverberations and lots of brand-new rhetoric. You re-imagined Ellington's masterpiece. You found actors who weren't afraid to re-jig their roles to fit their own timbre and strut. You re-tuned the ensembles to keep the spirit and but you gave them their own character, sometimes leaner and sometimes fuller.

The first track I listened to was “Sonnet for Hank Cinq,” because I wanted to see what a 21st-century trombonist could make of Britt Woodman's 55-year-old showpiece. Instead of taking him on, you used him as a foundation. You use the sonnet as a frame for solo interludes and that changes the terms of reference. Ellington was strict about keeping the fourteen-line sonnet form but he would probably smile on your audacity at turning it into a frame for a bigger picture.

It was a masterstroke to give the lead in “Up and Down” to Victor Goines. You had to take that role out of a trumpeter's hand because no matter how good and how original he might have made it there is no way it could stand up to Clark Terry's brilliant original. Victor Goines makes it all different, and still perfectly puckish.

The most challenging movement for reanalysis, I suppose, had to be “Madness in Great Ones,” because Ellington’s brilliant dissonances are indispensible analogues for Hamlet’s jangled nerves. By filling the upper reaches of the sound palette with Victor Goines’s sopranino in place of the overwrought trumpet of the original, you give fresh texture to the ensembles. The stunning interlude where Victor improvises countermelodies over your trombone solo rises naturally out of the score, and makes a dazzling extension.

I agree entirely with your evaluation of “Circle of Fourths.” Ellington wanted a flag-waver to go out on, and at the time Paul Gonsalves' wailing interval at Newport was flag-waving currency. Ellington tacked it on. You give "Circle of Fourths" a lot more depth, and you do it by segmenting its parts and giving them full value. Your re-cast really rocks. Given more time and patience, I like to imagine that Ellington might have done something like it.

That's enough for now. I want you to know that I appreciate it.

Jack Chambers - author of “Bardland: Shakespeare in Ellington’s World” (2005)



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