January 23 last, a couple of weeks ago saw the sixty eighth anniversary of Duke Ellington’s first concert at Carnegie Hall. Centre piece of this event was the performance of a piece written specifically with this occasion in mind – Black, Brown and Beige.
Whilst the work was previewed the night before at Rye High School, Westchester County, New York the previous evening, Carnegie was the occasion, effectively, of its world premier.
A further performance of the work took place at Boston’s Symphony Hall on January 28 and then Ellington never performed the work in its entirety in concert ever again.
Listening to that first Carnegie Hall concert from the original vinyl issue (the transfer to CD is not done well –vinyl is the way to go to hear these recordings), B, B and B occupies both sides of the second of the three discs. It comprises, then, an entirely self-contained experience. I know that over the next few weeks I shall be returning to these sides again and again to reflect on the significance the composition – perhaps the major work of his career - certainly had on Ellington himself.
It is interesting to reflect, too, on the life the work enjoyed beyond these initial performances. There is the 1958 Columbia album, for example and the way certain pieces from the work would recur throughout Ellington’s work, the sublime Come Sunday, signally, which is featured both in Ellington’s 1963 My People and the Sacred concerts. These matters of heritage and faith run deep.
I was particularly gratified to receive a comment following the recent, brief piece on the passing of Barrie Lee Hall Junior posted here. The comment was signed Maurice. A little research on line confirmed me in my thoughts that its author was Maurice Peress who amongst his many accomplishments through his work with the Aaron Copland School of Music, is the author of Living with American Music: From Dvorak to Duke Ellington and who worked with Ellington himself on orchestrating Black, Brown and Beige in the sixties.
Thank you, Mr Peress for your comments. As with all the support, interest and kindness I receive here, they are very much appreciated.