During the month of July 1966, Duke Ellington & His Orchestra performed at the Juan-les-Pins/Antibes Jazz Festival on the French Riviera, locally known as the Côte D'Azur. Situated near a stand of towering pine trees, the stage allowed the instrumentalists to gaze at vessels sailing by on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea. Ellington & His Orchestra, sometimes graced with the presence of vocalist Ella Fitzgerald, were filmed and taped extensively. When Ellington's Soul Call album was released in 1967, there was only room for 14 tracks. These included the world premiere recording (and what could stand as the definitive version of) "La Plus Belle Africaine"; "West Indian Pancake," a smoking hot feature for saxophonist Paul Gonsalves, and "Skin Deep," a 12-minute feature for Duke's "first chair percussionist" Sam Woodyard (whose name the leader repeatedly pronounced with dramatic emphasis). An appraisal of Soul Call (in Norman Granz's liner notes) damns the album with faint praise and emphasizes that this is not "essential" Duke Ellington. On the contrary, Soul Call does contain the essence of what Duke and his men were all about during the '60s. Soul Call cannot be recommended highly enough. It is late period Ellington at his most exciting.
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AllMusic Review by arwulf arwulf