Saturday, June 9, 2007

Ellington in Illinois

Elaine Fine has written about the great experience of playing last night in a concert devoted to symphonic arrangements of longer works by Duke Ellington. As someone who's been listening to Ellington's music since teenagerhood, I was thrilled to be an audience member at this concert, never having imagined I'd have a chance to hear any of these pieces in anything other than their recorded versions. To hear the roaring end of A Tone Parallel to Harlem played by an orchestra -- all I can say is that I was there, and I heard it, and I'll never forget it.

Elaine and I were both fortunate to be audience members for a performance earlier in the week that recreated most of Ellington's first (1943) Carnegie Hall concert. The press release for this recreation made no mention that it would include Black, Brown, and Beige, Ellington's longest and most ambitious composition. Here too, all I can say is that I was there, and I heard it, all of it. Hearing shorter Ellington pieces was equally exciting: Jon Faddis reinventing Rex Stewart's "Boy Meets Horn" -- yes, in the middle of the cornfields! I was happy to be there.

Maurice Peress, a friend and working associate of Duke Ellington and an enthusiastic advocate for his music, conducted both concerts. I gather that Peress doesn't do this kind of thing often. If you're ever nearby when he does: go.

Other Ellington posts
The Duke Box (Ellington in the 40s, an 8-CD set)
Ellington for beginners (Where to start)
Proust and the finger-snapping bit (Ellington advice on how to be cool)

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