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Album review: 'Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite' 

Slavic Soul Party!

"Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite"

Ropeadope Records

When Slavic Soul Party! launches into Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn's "The Far East Suite" you can almost hear the music ricochet across the world and back a couple of times. When writing the tunes, Ellington and Strayhorn were inspired by a 1963 tour that took them to India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and Jordon (all countries that are actually in the Near East). Slavic Soul Party! is Brooklyn-based, but the group draws its inspiration from raucous Balkan brass bands with a touch of Gypsy accordion.

Now that you've got that straight, picture the masterful jazz orchestra arrangements of Ellington and Strayhorn re-imagined and played live by the wild, funky nine-piece brass band. Somehow, the spirit comes through loud and clear with nothing lost in translation. From the wonderfully raucous "Tourist Point Of View" through the sultry "Isfahan" to the contemporary classical sensibility of "Ad Lib On Nippon" (we're finally in the Far East!), leader Matt Moran's arrangements are somehow just right.


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