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ALBUM REVIEWS : DUKE ELLINGTON "Latin American Suite" Fantasy ****

January 13, 1991|LEONARD FEATHER

Only 37 minutes long, recorded in the evening of the maestro's career, this collection of seven unrelated pieces (it's not really a suite) celebrated Ellington's first South American tour. Some of it suggests Latin dance music steeped in Ellingtonality, without much variation in the rhythms. Still, the supremely, unmistakably Ducal orchestral textures, the gently pervasive factor of His Grace's piano and the occasional touches of Paul Gonsalves, Johnny Hodges et al combine to make up for a thematic level that sometimes falls below optimum standards. No other ensemble ever produced voicings as memorably personal as Ellington's, even this late in his creative life.

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