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Such Sweet Thunder Original recording reissued

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Original recording reissued, April 27, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

Such Sweet Thunder was, like Black, Brown and Beige and the later Far East Suite and other works of the late-1950s and on, a long-form study broken into identifiable miniatures that could stand alone as tunes. But this one was far more unlikely than Ellington and cocomposer Billy Strayhorn's other suites, with its focus on characters developed by William Shakespeare. Pieces were scripted for both centuries-old characters and Ellington band members; for example, Paul Gonsalves's tenor sax and Johnny Hodges's alto parry as a musical Romeo and Juliet on "Star-Crossed Lovers." Surely this description of the CD makes it sound stiff, even pretentious, but the music gives the lie to such an assumption. Ellington was a master of sectional polyphony, making sure his band's sections swung individually and then in tandem with the other sections, creating a powerful, sometimes swirling swing. But he had Strayhorn, who was also a master of creating moods and ambient textures. And that's where this session becomes fascinating, in the moments when the group creates something other than rhythmic propulsion, standard harmony, or even focused melody. Rounding out the original LP issue--which accounts for only half of this CD's length--are a host of alternate takes, three of them wholly or partially unreleased until this set. --Andrew Bartlett

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Such Sweet Thunder (Cleo)
  2. Sonnet For Caesar
  3. Sonnet To Hank Cinq
  4. Lady Mac
  5. Sonnet In Search Of A Moor
  6. The Telecasters
  7. Up And Down, Up And Down (I Will Lead Them Up And Down) (Puck)
  8. Sonnet For Sister Kate
  9. The Star-Crossed Lovers (AKA Pretty Girl)
  10. Madness In Great Ones (Hamlet)
  11. Half The Fun (AKA Lately)
  12. Circle Of Fourths
  13. The Star-Crossed Lovers (AKA Pretty Girl) (Stereo LP Master)
  14. Circle Of Fourths (Stereo LP Master)
  15. Suburban Beauty (Master Take)
  16. A Flat Minor (Preferred Take)
  17. Cafe Au Lait (Preferred Take)
  18. Half The Fun (AKA Lately) (Alternate Take)
  19. Suburban Beauty (Alternate Take)
  20. A Flat Minor (Outtakes)
  21. Cafe Au Lait (Outtakes)
  22. Pretty Girl (AKA The Star-Crossed Lovers) (First Recording)
  23. Bonus Track 1


Product Details

  • Audio CD (April 27, 1999)
  • Original Release Date: 1957
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Original recording reissued
  • Label: Sony
  • ASIN: B00000IMYN
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,052 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Giuseppe C. HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 22, 2001
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
[Update: The 2008 reissue is the same as the previous edition--i.e. the original recording's most memorable moment, Clark Terry's/Puck's vocalized trumpet proclaiming "Oh what fools these mortals be," is omitted, even though the included earlier commentaries by Irving Townsend and Bill Berry both single it out. Instead the purchaser is subjected to Phil Schaap's tedious, all-but-unreadable screed detailing his quest to uncover and preserve every precious detail of the session, including ambient sound! Not even a mention of the unconscionable switcheroo (whatever happened to the original "Up and Down"?). Very discouraging. But give Schaap and company credit for the miraculous restoration (and improvement) of "Ellington at Newport '56." As for "Such Sweet Thunder," keep scouring the auctions for a decent LP version.]

There was a time when the producers of records actually knew something about the music itself. The vinyl Columbia albums, for example, frequently included copious musical analysis supplied by George Avakian and other resident producer-critics. As listeners, we may think we know what we like, then realize we tend to like what we know. Reading liner notes, for some reason, often proved a more effective way of learning things about jazz and its creators than pulling books out of the library.

The point is that the omission of Clark Terry's celebrated Shakespearean quotation/Puck impersonation from this edition of one of Ellington's recorded treasures is more than an oversight. It's a flagrant disregard for the real listener, an insult to the makers and custodians of this music, and a stunning, shameless display of sheer ignorance. It demonstrates the complete "disconnect" between the product and its exploitive marketers.
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9 Comments 43 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Audio CD
The sound quality on this album, easily one of Ellington's finest suites, is top-notch -- particularly when compared with the older French import of several years ago.
However, the unlabeled alternate take of "Up and Down" sticks out as an unfortunate, embarrassing oversight on Columbia/Legacy's part. The fact that the new liner notes mention Clark Terry's "famous" musical quotation, which is not even present in this take, is especially glaring.
Ellingtonians beware.
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Format: Audio CD
Unless you have heard the vinyl cut of Up and Down you will never know how sad it is that it is not on this cd. But...all of that aside This is an amazing creation...a sensuous, beautiful combination of two artforms into a third. This almost stands on its own as a new form, the musical interpretation of art done in the most gut-wrenching impulsive way. This is intellectual, but so soul filled. Here are two of my favorite moments...Up and Down is still awesome, a fugue for 7 voices including Clark Terry who plays puck. Terry is one the distinctive voices of the trumpet, and he alone is worth the listen. But above all, lock me in a room and play me Star Crossed Lovers, the romeo and Juliet piece, After Johnny Hodges first verse as Juliet there is this orchestral cascade which is the heart stoppingly beautiful moment of life, first love, life itself. This is such a stupendous journey. You would be a foolish mortal not to at least check it out.
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Format: Audio CD
As someone who bought the original vinyl of Such Sweet Thunder when it was first released, I looked forward to the specially remastered job with extra cuts to celebrate Duke's centenary. But with all the trouble and technology, all the extra takes and odds and ends, how could the producer manage to leave out the classic, definitive take of a classic movement from the suite - Up and Down ..., where Clark Terry pronounces on trumpet at its conclusion: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" The liner notes proceed as if this original take were on the CD, but what we have is a vastly inferior take without the end-quote.
I have read numerous reviews from the most learned jazz experts since 1999 and not one has identified this obvious error. And I have read of no apology to collectors from Columbia Legacy for this "capital offence" against the memory of Duke.
Aside from this gripe, this is a magnificent remastering of one of Duke's best extended works which should be in every self-respecting jazz collection.
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Format: Audio CD
Columbia Legacy has taken one of its greatest treasures, Duke Ellington's "Such Sweet Thunder", and reissued only an alternate take for "Up and Down...", which will undoubtedly leave new listeners wondering just exactly what "famous quotation" referred to in the liner notes Clark Terry actually plays. For their benefit, it is "Lord, what fools these mortals be", and for the time being the phrase can only describe Columbia's engineers and quality control personnel. (It took them three tries to get the reissue of Miles Davis' "Miles Ahead" straight.)
Duke would get five stars if the album consisted of nothing but alternate takes, but Columbia gets no stars for its sloppiness.
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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Be jealous of me - I own CD Col 469140 2, which was an earlier reissue that I bought somewhere in Europe. Needless to say, it has the right take of Up And Down...Look for it! This is Duke and Billy's finest writing together - from the swagger of the title track, with its hidden references to Birmingham Breakdown and Jumpin' Punkins, and its use of Duke's "African" motto theme (check out Dance #5 from Liberian Suite) to the very particular decadent elegance of Lady Mac (note the use of Procope's alto). And then one of Duke's very best usages of Clark Terry in that great piece of musical humor, Up And Down, and his best - ever piece for Cat Anderson, the stunning Madness in Great Ones - one of Duke's most "cutting edge" pieces (though I have to admit I don't love the climax - it feels a little overblown). It seems that no one but myself has ever heard some slight nods towards Gil Evans in this suite. Something in the very particular transparency of the scoring - the lightness of the brass writing. Some sonorities...I could see them feeling it. But whatever, this is a masterpiece. One should expect nothing less from Duke, although now that we're living in the age of Ellington hagiography, where (albeit brilliant) sketches like Afro - Eurasian Eclipse are treated like the second coming of Ko-Ko, I think the critical standard is a little low in general. But put that all aside - this CD is a triumph.
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