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EKE BBB

AOTW Jan 25-31 D. Ellington "Black, Brown & Beige"

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Thanks Jim R for allowing me to pick AOTW for January 25-31.

This is one of my favorite LP-era Ellington recordings, no doubt. Recorded in 1958, it´s BB&B´s third appearance on disc in an altered and edited version. It features Mahalia Jackson on "Come Sunday" and "23rd Psalm".

This could be a good chance to discuss Ellington´s extended works skills (by comparison with his mastering within the song-type musical form). In advance, I must recognize I love Duke´s suites... and it doesn´t mean that I don´t like his hundreds of songs.

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BTW, now you know the meaning of the second part of my username, dig it?

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Good choice, EKE! Will love to revisit this one!

ubu

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To keep this ball rolling, I oficially nominate Jim Sangrey (under his permission :P ) to pick next AOTW (Feb 1-7)

B)

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OK, I´ll start this one.

BBB´s premiere took place on January 23 (1943) in the first of many Carnegie Hall Concerts for the Duke Ellington Orchestra. It received a cold reception from critics and public. This suite, as many of the extended works Ellington developed through his career, was criticized as being "pretentious" and as being a vain try of melting "serious music" and jazz.

BBB has been criticized as well of having too much themes, too much changes of time and too much different moods.

I couldn´t disagree more. It contains wonderful moments of fabulous music and some of the best Ellington melodies. It´s one (if not the most) spinned Ellington discs on my shelves.

BBB original version (about 45 minutes) was edited, reduced, expanded and changed many times through Ellington´s career.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

This 1958 (recording date) performance consists of the two principal parts of the complete piece, "Work song", heard in Parts I and III, and "Come Sunday", heard in parts II, III, IV and V.

My personal highlights include:

-the complete Part I, with its grandiloquent orchestral start, with that drum making its tom-tom tom-tom (this effect is even greater in the version included in Duke Ellington Private Recordings, vol.10), with continous new melodies and changes of rhythm. Dig it!

... and then there´s that simple but beautiful solo by Harry Carney. He makes another good one on Part II (I must recognize the first time I listened to this second one I thought it was a tenor sax and not a baritone)

-the superb introduction by Shorty Baker on Part III and his brief call and response game with the orchestra. This 40 seconds are worth the price of the CD. Shorty Baker is a great asset in the whole suite.

-Come Sunday: Mahalia Jackson is simply amazing here. This is one of my favorite Ellington melodies (and I have a great deal of them). Actually, I don´t own any Mahalia Jackson disc apart from this. So, this AOTW and this re-listening of BBB will make me include some MJ CDs on my wish-list (I know you´ll recommend some).

-Ray Nance´s violin solo on Part V is one of his best with Ellington Orchestra. Keeping the Come Sunday melody, it introduces the 23rd Psalm.

More impressions to come!

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How's the sound quality on the latest reissue? I haven't heard this, but I've heard others that were remastered and released at the same time, and they all sound so brittle and cold (to these ears).

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How's the sound quality on the latest reissue? I haven't heard this, but I've heard others that were remastered and released at the same time, and they all sound so brittle and cold (to these ears).

I´m not an audiophile at all, but my 1999 reissue sounds good to these ears, as all the Ellington CDs released on his Centennial year that I have.

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List for the recordings of the "complete" BBB suite with the title for each track, according to YOSHIOKA TOSHIYA:

BLACK,BROWN AND BEIGE (Ellington)

(1943 version)

BLACK

BROWN

BEIGE

BLUES, THE (*)

(1944 version)

WORKSONG

BLUES, THE

THREE DANCES

COME SUNDAY

(1945 version)

WORK SONG

BLUES, THE

WEST INDIAN DANCE

EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION

SUGAR HILL PENTHOUSE

(1958 version)

PART 1-6

THE 23RD PSALM

(*) My copy of the Carnegie 1943 Concert doesn´t include "The blues" as a separate track ?????

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We should add the one included in The Private Collection, volume 10:

1. Black (Ellington) - 8:09

2. Come Sunday (Ellington) - 5:59

3. Light (Ellington) - 6:29

4. West Indian Dance (Ellington) - 2:15

5. Emancipation Celebration (Ellington) - 2:36

6. The Blues (Ellington) - 5:23

7. Cy Runs Rock Waltz (Ellington) - 2:18

8. Beige (Ellington) - 2:24

9. Sugar Hill Penthouse (Ellington) - 4:55

All tracks recorded on 1965 except for "The Blues" which is actually a 1971 recording featuring Tony Watkins on vocals: this is one of the very few times this song has been sung by a male vocalist.

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Excellent choice!!!

Black, Brown & Beige is a real beauty. :tup

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How's the sound quality on the latest reissue? I haven't heard this, but I've heard others that were remastered and released at the same time, and they all sound so brittle and cold (to these ears).

Yes, the late 90's Ellington and other Columbia reissues (Miles/Gil) sound very analytical indeed. But in no way do they sound harsh or fatiguing.

Black Brown and Beige is my favourite Ellington album from the late 50's. "Come sunday" is the most beautiful song I've ever heard on a jazz record.

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"Come sunday" is the most beautiful song I've ever heard on a jazz record.

Right you are.

A couple of my favorite non Ellington versions are Cedar Walton on his date titled Cedar!, and Joe Williams doing the vocals on this one...

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Tete Montoliu made a pair of very short, almost impresionistic, but wonderful covers of "Come Sunday" a few months before his death in this piano solo live recording:

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When this lp was issued in the late '50s, I was pissed because it was a "desecaration" of the original. The "original" was just fine, but Duke took tons of bumps. Check out the original on Fantasy's Carnegie Hall series.

I still live with the 40+ year old lp (CS 8015) and consider it an ok late '50s Ellington record, but have not bought the cd version.

Mahalia is very fine. No arguement from me, and the band plays well - but it ain't BB&B.

The recommendation of the "Private Collection" disc is seconded by me, but hear the original.

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Yes, Chuck I have the original (Carnegie Hall 1943) and it´s great, as well as the 1944 and 1947 (not complete) Carnegie Hall versions.

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Up for some air!

Any more comments? The week´s running so fast...

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Thanks for chosing a work by Ellington; I hope my comment altough not about the music itself can stimulate further discussion.

Perhaps one way of understanding BBB is to consider it as a political work by an African American living in a time, the 1940s, when African Americans were begining to demand their civil rights. In the sense, laying the groundwork for the advances of later years.

In this context the reception of BBB when first performed in the 1940s becomes interesting; the criticism wasn't favourable and seems to have prevented BBB from being performed later in toto. Of course the reason could be that BBB was contrary to the accepted the musical tastes of the 1940s.

However, we could also consider the subject matter of BBB and Jump for Joy, the 1940s musical, of which only scraps survive. ie the status of African-Americans in the US. In the 1940s segragation was still prevalent, not just in the southern states but also in, for example, the armed forces. In other words, did BBB and, for that matter, Jump for Joy, not have the right subject matter for a White audience more concerned with the fight for freedom outside of the US, but possibly less concerned, hostile even, to dealing with related issues at home?

By 1959 when the new version of BBB was recorded, the Civil Rights movement was making an impact on the United States as a whole. Possibly the work had become more politically acceptable; on the other hand; BBB as performed in 1959 has more religious connotations, with Mahalia Jackson aboard the political impact is considerbly less.

Edited by andersf

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Very interesting comments Anders! Thanks for sharing them.

I haven't pulled this out and listened to it this week. I'm far more partial to the original live performances and the later "stockpile" recordings, but I do like this session from 1959 with Ms. Jackson on board.

When I first started collecting Duke and marveling at BBandB I just could not understand the critical reaction that swirled around this and discouraged Duke so much that this work as a whole was hardly performed and so infrequently recorded since. I love this work, and realized how important it must have been to Duke at the time of it's debut. In my readings since then I've come to think that some of the critics were just grinding their own axes in putting the suite down. You know, they wouldn't ever say so but "I suggested that Duke hire a musician and he didn't and now here he has this really ambitious project and I don't like it." And indeed I can imagine that just hearing this in concert new and never heard before, and having it vanish into the air would not allow the most considered and reflected review. But I won't deny that there is a strong possibility that racism played a part. This was a continuation of Duke's building a library of works about the African American People, and was a work of pride and hope and it very well might have been a prejudice invoking action to present this suite in "classical" garb. Reaction to this work, and "Jump for Joy" could certainly have represented racist feelings among some of the detractors, the sort of covert and implied racism that was not uncommon then (and unfortunately one still finds now).

Edited by jazzbo

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Thanks. Probably my background, part South African and part Sweden, has helped me to see a connection of this kind.

The reaction of the critics is, of course, more complex than to be a matter merely of racism, overt or latent.

John Hammond would, I imagine, have understood and appreciated the political message, but I understand it, he was one who in the 1930s offered advice to Duke Ellington; when it wasn't taken; Hammond never really forgave him.

At least I think I read this some time ago; I hope the memory is accurate.

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I believe your memory is correct re: John Hammond!

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We should add the one included in The Private Collection, volume 10:

1. Black (Ellington) - 8:09

2. Come Sunday (Ellington) - 5:59

3. Light (Ellington) - 6:29

4. West Indian Dance (Ellington) - 2:15

5. Emancipation Celebration (Ellington) - 2:36

6. The Blues (Ellington) - 5:23

7. Cy Runs Rock Waltz (Ellington) - 2:18

8. Beige (Ellington) - 2:24

9. Sugar Hill Penthouse (Ellington) - 4:55

All tracks recorded on 1965 except for "The Blues" which is actually a 1971 recording featuring Tony Watkins on vocals: this is one of the very few times this song has been sung by a male vocalist.

There are versions of Harlem and Ad Lib On Nippon on that disc too.

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Don't mean to be a wet blanket here but this is one piece of Ellingtonia that I don't (currently) enjoy. I can understand the rationale/reasons behind the compositions but musically they just don't appeal that much to me (relative to other Ellington compositions of course). Having said that, I will still put this incarnation of BB&B on my wish list. :w:tup

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.

-Come Sunday: Mahalia Jackson is simply amazing here. This is one of my favorite Ellington melodies (and I have a great deal of them). Actually, I don´t own any Mahalia Jackson disc apart from this. So, this AOTW and this re-listening of BBB will make me include some MJ CDs on my wish-list (I know you´ll recommend some).

-[

For a great Mahalia cd EKE, try "Live At Newport 1958" on Sony Legacy. Ms. Jackson at her best! The Apollo recordings are also among my favorite Mahalia, particularly the releases on Fremeaux & Assoc. (The Complete Mahalia Jackson Vols. 1-3 {each volume is sold seperately}). But "Live At Newport" is a great place to start!

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On 1/26/2004 at 6:03 AM, EKE BBB said:

List for the recordings of the "complete" BBB suite with the title for each track, according to YOSHIOKA TOSHIYA:

 

BLACK,BROWN AND BEIGE (Ellington)

 

(1943 version)

BLACK

BROWN

BEIGE

BLUES, THE (*)

 

(1944 version)

WORKSONG

BLUES, THE

THREE DANCES

COME SUNDAY

 

(1945 version)

WORK SONG

BLUES, THE

WEST INDIAN DANCE

EMANCIPATION CELEBRATION

SUGAR HILL PENTHOUSE

 

(1958 version)

PART 1-6

THE 23RD PSALM

 

(*) My copy of the Carnegie 1943 Concert doesn´t include "The blues" as a separate track ?????

Who/what was the 1945 version recorded for?  I'm familiar with the DETS broadcasts from that year... there's also a two-part BBB on the V-disc recordings, though not sure where that's sourced from.  

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56 minutes ago, ghost of miles said:

Who/what was the 1945 version recorded for?  I'm familiar with the DETS broadcasts from that year... there's also a two-part BBB on the V-disc recordings, though not sure where that's sourced from.  

Philharmonic Hall LA 1/17/45  broadcast on some AFRS One Night Stand shows?  

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On a related note: one of the Black motifs is Riding on a Blue Note from 1938.

Interestingly, Come Sunday came up in my listening twice this week:  studio and broadcast Gerald Wilson (with Hobart Dotson) and Booker Ervin.

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