Personnel: Duke Ellington (piano); Russell Procope (alto saxophone, clarinet); Johnny Hodges (alto saxophone); Jimmy Hamilton (tenor saxophone, clarinet); Paul Gonsalves (tenor saxophone); Harry Carney (baritone saxophone); "Cat" Anderson, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, Willie Cook (trumpet); John Sanders, Britt Woodman, Quentin Jackson (trombone); Jimmy Woode (bass); Sam Woodyard (drums).
Producer: Irving Townsend.
Reissue producer: Phil Schaap.
Recorded between August 1956 and May 1957. Originally released on Columbia (CL 1033). Includes original liner notes by Irving Townsend and new liner notes by Bill Berry and Phil Schaap.
Digitally remastered by Phil Schaap and Mark Wilder.
Inspired by the words of William Shakespeare, Duke Ellington--possible the greatest jazz composer/bandleader America has produced--composed a suite that is a sublime tribute and could-be soundtrack to the plays of the immortal playwright. Commissioned in 1956 by the Stratford (Ontario) Shakespeare Festival, SUCH SWEET THUNDER is a 12-part suite in which, as the bard wrote for his company of players, Ellington fashions musical miniatures that evoke and parallel Shakespeare's characters.
"Sonnet for Caesar" is dark, somber, full of dissonant twists; "Lady Mac" is light, airy without-a-care ballroom dance music, until the surprise, fraught-with-portent ending; "The Star-Crossed Lovers" is late-night after-hours blues, the music that Romeo and Juliet listened to while holding hands at the No Exit Hideaway club. Ellington got such a unique orchestral sound by writing for the individual strengths and styles of his musicians. Highlights include the lush, luscious tone of alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges and trumpeter Clark Terry (who takes on the role of Puck here). THUNDER is a multi-faceted work that you don't have to be a drama student to enjoy--just a music fan.
Down Beat (p.74) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Energetic, enchanting and exceptional, vocalist Lorraine Feather's SUCH SWEET THUNDER features a selection of challenging, sometimes angular melodies..."