Duke Ellington “Liberian Suite”

Duke Ellington’s “Liberian Suite” from the 1949 10” mono LP. Originally commissioned by the Liberian government to celebrate its Centenial since independence. The Liberian Suite does not follow traditional classical forms or imitate the tendency toward thematic development and recapitulation, instead the music tried to capture African rhythms and move from idea to idea, picking up a vibrancy as the album unfolds. This album was originally recorded direct to lacquer, as tape recorders were unavailable in 1947 in the USA.

Ellington’s music was promoted in the Speak Easy era as Jungle Music; mysterious, exotic & exciting. Ellington was self taught, the perfect autodidact; he did not voice his horns in 1,3, 5; instead he added a baritone or alto, then cross arranged with clarinets, trombones, & saxophones. He was not afraid to add dissonance to harmonies, not afraid to break to break the previously established musical rules, rather he built a new tonal palette in the process.

There is a jump factor on this album, that many modern albums today lack. Besides the amazing array of talent; Johnny Hodges, Oscar Pettiford, Clark Terry, Paul Gonsalves… the music is fresh & exciting. Al Hubble’s ’s vocals were later over-dubbed on to the only vocal song – “I Like The Sunrise.” As soon as the singing is over, the musicians just let rip. With the correct mono EQ dialed in, you only need to close your eyes, to believe that Duke Ellington & his 19 piece orchestra are playing right before your ears. Sonically, the best sounding version is that of the original mono 10”. The subsequent 12” reissue with “A Tone Parallel to Harlem” on the B side, lacks the sonic vibrancy & immediacy of the original 10”.  Not available on TIDAL as of this posting.

Available at 24/96 here:

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