Matt Moran and his merry band usher a late-period Ellington masterwork gracefully into middle age.
Fifty years ago, Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn synthesized elements of American jazz with sounds from the Middle East. Such a stunt wasn't new to this creative team, seeing as how they fully integrated American jazz and blues into themes of "The Nutcracker". The Far East Suite was just as successful in 1966 and continues to enjoy classic status to this day. Drummer Matt Moran's Slavic Soul Party! have chosen to cover Ellington and Strayhorn's masterpiece from top to bottom live at the Barbès club in Brooklyn. Brooklyn isn't exactly the Far East, but the nine-member ensemble gives us a very reverant and professional rendition of the songs that embodied what Ellington called the "exotic tinge." Even the off-kilter closer "Ad Lib on Nippon" is preserved in its sprawling format, and that certainly has to be worth something. Accordian player Peter Stan should be noted for the flavor he is able to sprinkle on the music -- essentially, a bridge from west to east.