Late flourish from eminent jazz composer

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Duke Ellington – New Orleans Suite

The death, midway through the sessions, of legendary Ellington altoist Johnny Hodges (who wails his swan song here on “Blues For New Orleans”) didn’t halt this 1970 tribute to the Crescent City and its sons from being a highlight of Duke’s sixth decade as a bandleader/composer. Harold Ashby (tenor) and Cootie Williams (trumpet) shine on “Thanks For The Beautiful Land Of The Delta” and “Portrait Of Louis Armstrong” respectively, while Bill Davis offers a successful organ vignette. Duke’s writing was never indifferent but here he achieves something particularly fulsome, rich and swinging, even by his standards.