Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Queen’s Suite

Duke Ellington, in Music Is My Mistress (1973):

In 1958, I was invited to perform at the first festival of the arts in Leeds, England, where I had the great honor of being presented to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. Representatives of all the arts were drawn from all over the world, and at the festival’s conclusion a magnificent banquet was preceded by a red-carpet reception. Her Majesty asked me when I first visited England. “Nineteen thirty-three, Your Majesty, years before you were born.”

Inspired by this meeting, I composed and recorded The Queen’s Suite.
Ellington and Billy Strayhorn set to work on the suite shortly after this meeting. The story goes that one copy of the 1959 recording was pressed and sent to Her Majesty. We now know that other copies circulated among select listeners. The common listener was finally able to hear the suite on the Pablo LP The Ellington Suites (1976).

The Queen’s Suite is in six parts, four of them by Ellington and Strayhorn. The second and fourth parts are by Strayhorn alone:

Sunset and the Mocking Bird : Lightning Bugs and Frogs : Le Sucrier Velours : Northern Lights : The Single Petal of a Rose : Apes and Peacocks

The musicians: Duke Ellington, piano; Harry Carney, Paul Gonsalves, Jimmy Hamilton, Johnny Hodges, Russell Procope, reeds; Cat Anderson, Harold “Shorty” Baker, Ray Nance, Clark Terry, trumpets; Quentin Jackson, John Sanders, Britt Woodman, trombones; Jimmy Woode, bass; Jimmy Johnson, drums.

The Queen’s Suite is Ellington–Strayhorn music of an especially high order. If you’ve never heard it, give it a try.

[Queen Elizabeth apparently had some feeling for jazz.]

comments: 3

Tororo said...

Wonderful. I had never heard of this suite, and suddenly everybody seems to rediscover it: the French music radio station (France Musique) just aired part of it, first time I believe, some hours ago.

Michael Leddy said...


The CD (The Ellington Suites) is now #34 in Jazz at Amazon, so interest must be spreading.

Michael Leddy said...

And #640 in Pop.