This 1966 concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles features sets by Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, with the source evidently being a soundboard tape. His star soloists consistently shine, especially tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves in the flag-waver "Soul Call" and the ballad "In a Sentimental Mood" (the latter usually a feature for Johnny Hodges). Cootie Williams' brash trumpet is showcased in "Take the 'A' Train," while high-note specialist Cat Anderson squeals in his "Prowling Cat." The drums are a bit too prominent in the mix, the sound is a bit muddy in places, and the microphone does not always pick up the leader's spoken…
The 1999 reissue of this album marks a total reconstruction and rethinking of the original LP, and such a complete break from the original album that its story could fill a book. Such Sweet Thunder was originally announced as a stereo and mono release, but only showed up in mono thanks to the technical problems inherent in early stereo in creating a concert-like ambience in which the performance seemed continuous. ~ AllMusic
When Billy Strayhorn died of cancer in 1967, Duke Ellington was devastated. His closest friend and arranger had left his life full of music and memories. As a tribute, Ellington and his orchestra almost immediately began recording a tribute to Strayhorn, using the late arranger's own compositions and charts. The album features well-known and previously unrecorded Strayhorn tunes that showcased his range, versatility, and, above all, the quality that Ellington admired him most for: his sensitivity to all of the timbral, tonal, and color possibilities an orchestra could bring to a piece of music. ~ Thom Jurek, All Music Guide
Duke Ellington always absorbed influences from the music he heard as he toured the world, and The Latin American Suite is no exception. Written during his first tour of Central and South America in 1968, Ellington premiered several of the pieces during concerts in the Southern hemisphere, though he didn't record it until returning to the U.S., with one piece ("Tina") being recorded separately over a year after the other tracks. "Oclupaca" is an exotic opener showcasing Paul Gonsalves' robust tenor, while Ellington gets in an Oriental kick during his driving blues "Chico Cuadradino" (jointly written with his son Mercer). Ellington is in a jaunty mood in his bossa nova "Eque," which spotlights both Johnny Hodges and Gonsalves. The infectious "Latin American Sunshine" is buoyed by Harry Carney's sonorous baritone sax and trombonist Lawrence Brown's solo. It's a shame that Ellington chose not to keep any of these originals in his repertoire once work was completed on this album.