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Brooklyn's Wild Slavic Soul Party! 'Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite,' Ropeadope [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Sep 15, 2016 07:39 PM EDT
Slavic Soul Party 'Slavic Soul Party Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite' on new Ropeadope Records release. (Photo : Monkey Dart Photos)

If you can imagine a Balkan brass band interpreting The Duke Ellington Orchestra's landmark 1963 Far East Suite than you have an idea of what the New Yorkers in Slavic Soul Party are doing on their latest outrage on Ropeadope Records as the band Plays Duke Ellington's Far East Suite.

We'll never know how much of this sweet suite was actually written by Duke or Billy Strayhorn (Duke put his name on everything) but it matters not at this point. Strayhorn (especially since David Hajdu's must-read 1997 Lush Life biography) is a jazz hero for the ages for reasons too numerous to mention here. (The book is highly recommended.)

Percussionist Matt Moran started this Party in 1993. Nineteen musicians have come and gone with the current lineup being a nonet that still plays in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn every week. They're outrageous, loud, funky, brassy, humorous and jazzed to the gills on a pastiche of New Orleans, Gypsy, Klezmer, R'n'B, Euro Folk and Swing sensibilities.

Here, they take the nine exact tracks of the original, add punch, up-to-date studio ping, shorter solos and a wild free-for-all crazy-sick intensity to make an excellent companion piece to the original despite it being 53 years apart. You could do a lot with two trumpets, sax, clarinet, accordion, two trombones, tuba, snare drum and added percussion, including a tapan (traditional Bulgarian drum) and a bubanj (traditional Serbian drum). It all amounts to a hell of a beat-down.

The melodies of such well-worn gems as "Amad," "Agra," "Blue Pepper," "Tourist Point Of View," "Bluebird Of Delhi," "Isfahan," "Depk," "Mount Harissa" and "Ad Lib On Nippon" remain the same but the arrangements are so wild and wooly, danceable and grooveable, that it comes out as a whole 'nother animal, in your face, quixotic to the brain yet challenging enough to the ear where you want to hear it again.

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TagsSlavic Soul Party!, Ropeadope Records, REVIEW, Duke Ellington