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.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden