- The Ellington Suites finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
- Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1976 sounds
- We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
- “Ellington devoted special attention to The Queen’s Suite, which in the end hewed closely to his original sketch. Its six episodes were inspired by natural phenomena encountered in his travels. . .”
I know of no other Pablo record with sound so rich, full, and warm. This one destroyed a big stack of copies we’d been collecting for years in order to do this shootout. Unless you have a good-sized batch, ten or more, you will have a tough time finding one with sound anywhere near this amazing.
The Queen’s Suite, which takes up side one, was recorded in 1959 and sounds amazing. As you can imagine, this has one of the best Ellington bands ever assembled, with players like Clark Terry, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges… the list of jazz giants goes on and on. If you enjoy the classic albums by Mingus on Atlantic, you’re gonna love this work. The sound is excellent as well, spacious and transparent with tight bass and an extended top end.
Side two has material performed by Ellington in the early ’70s, which though not as good musically, is still very enjoyable. On this copy, it sounds amazing, with incredible transparency and immediacy. The overall sound is airy and open with lots of breathy texture to the horns and woodwinds.
1976 Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band!
What the Best Sides of The Ellington Suites Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
This vintage Pablo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What We’re Listening For on The Ellington Suites
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
The Queen’s Suite
- Sunset And The Mocking Bird
- Lightning Bugs And Frogs
- Le Sucrier Velour
- Northern Lights
- The Single Petal Of A Rose
- Apes And Peacocks
The Goutelas Suite
- Having At It
The Uwis Suite
- Loco Madi
When The Duke Flirted With The Queen
by Kevin Whitehead
In 1958, at an arts festival in Yorkshire, Duke Ellington was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. They tied up the reception line for a few minutes, exchanging royal pleasantries; our Duke politely flirted with Her Majesty. Soon afterward, maybe that very night, Ellington outlined the movements of The Queen’s Suite. He recorded it with his orchestra the following year, sent it to Her Majesty, and declined to release it to the public in his lifetime. It’s not clear whether Queen Elizabeth has listened to it.
Ellington devoted special attention to The Queen’s Suite, which in the end hewed closely to his original sketch. Its six episodes were inspired by natural phenomena encountered in his travels: bird calls of two continents (“Sunset and the Mocking Bird,” featuring clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton, was based on a bird call Ellington overheard in Florida), the Northern Lights seen from a Canadian roadside, and a ballet of hundreds of lightning bugs, accompanied by a chorus of bullfrogs, along the Ohio River. Ellington’s alter ego Billy Strayhorn wasn’t there that night, but composed “Lightning Bugs and Frogs” from Ellington’s description.
The suites Duke Ellington wrote with Billy Strayhorn were sometimes loosely tied together. The Queen’s Suite is unified by prominent use of clarinets, their woodiness reinforcing the nature theme. Ellington ties that back to his royal subject via the movement “Apes and Peacocks.” Those were among the annual tributes bestowed on the Bible’s King Solomon — natural wonders presented for a monarch’s delight. It’s on a new edition of The Ellington Suites, which has three of them.
The Goutelas Suite was recorded in 1971, after Strayhorn’s passing. It commemorated a ceremony Ellington had participated in years earlier, in which the restored wing of a medieval chateau was unveiled in the French hills. In a journal, Ellington wrote warmly of how the countryside’s aristocrats and commoners — its intellectuals, artisans and laborers, its Catholics and communists — had all banded together on the project. Ellington’s orchestral concept was based on a similar idea, which he’d learned hanging around a D.C. pool hall as a kid: “All levels could and should mix.”
The album The Ellington Suites also contains the Uwis Suite of 1972, composed for a University of Wisconsin festival. It’s best remembered for Ellington’s novelty polka, “Klop.” But it also includes “Loco Madi,” the last of the many train songs Ellington recorded, in a tradition that began with his inaugural session in 1924. A new edit gives us three more minutes before the fadeout. There’s also a previously unreleased tune from the Uwis session, although not part of the suite; “The Kiss,” like “Loco Madi,” adds electric bass to the rhythm section. Neither of those performances is a model of ensemble polish. But all posthumous Ellington is of interest — even if it can’t all be The Queen’s Suite.