Slavic Soul Party! celebrates 50 years since Duke Ellington’s and Billy Strayhorn’s masterpiece, The Far East Suite was released. The band re-imagines the sounds encapsulated in this timeless classic. Slavic Soul Party!’s music is ultimately New York music: a strong Balkan brass sound pumped through the filter of life in New York’s outer boroughs, making new music out of the unplanned results of immigration, proximity, and globalization. This is music that has taken several trips across the Atlantic, in both directions. Slavic Soul Party! is a brass band that has fallen in love with the sound of jazz. Similarly, in 1963, the Duke Ellington Orchestra crossed borders when the U.S. State Department sent the band on a “jazz diplomacy” mission to the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans. Conversely Ellington was a jazz band who became smitten with all this foreign music. Although, they were recalled to the states due to the untimely assassination of President Kennedy, their compositional result sounds as fresh today as it did half a century ago. Tracks from Slavic Soul Party! Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suitehave recently been featured on WNYC’s New Sounds, Southern California’s KPCC and NPR Music’s Songs We Love (who celebrated “Bluebird of Dehli”).
An extended version of the band will also be performing “The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music” which springs from shared funeral and brass traditions in Vietnam and the Mississippi River Delta, exploring the liminal spaces between life/death, water/earth, and tradition/innovation. This is the first performance of the piece, which was made for an art piece of the same name created for the New Orleans Biennial in 2015.
“As the name suggests, Slavic Soul Party! embraces the sounds and styles of the Balkans and neighboring cultures, exclamation point inclusive” – KPCC
“Slavic Soul Party! re-imagines [Ellington’s] suite from the perspective of an Eastern European brass band discovering the exotic sounds of American jazz.” – WNYC
“The central equation behind Slavic Soul Party! is self-explanatory: an American black-music spin on the Balkan brass band. The net product is akin to a New-Orleans-style brass band, but with different percussion timbres, horn trills and glissandi. It’s the sort of multiculti collision you see forged in major population centers.” – NPR Music