Liner Notes: Irving Townsend on “Black, Brown and Beige,” by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Featuring Mahalia Jackson
A recording essential to anyone who appreciates jazz is Duke Ellington’s 1943 jazz symphony Black, Brown and Beige, written for his first Carnegie Hall concert appearance. Described by many critics as his most ambitious composition, Ellington called it a “tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” Ellington only performed it complete on three occasions; once at Westchester County’s Rye High School on January 22, 1943, the Carnegie Hall concert the next night, and in Boston’s Symphony Hall a week later.
Fifteen years later, Ellington revised the composition, which Columbia released as Black, Brown and Beige, “Featuring Mahalia Jackson.” In his recently published Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, Terry Teachout writes that this recording was “falsely billed by Columbia as a complete version of ‘Black,’ the work’s first movement, augmented by a vocal version of ‘Come Sunday’ performed by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, who also contributed an impromptu ‘setting’ of the Twenty-Third Psalm. (‘He didn’t rehearse me nothin’,” she later said of the latter performance. ‘He said, “Just open the Bible and Sing!”‘). For those who hoped that Ellington would put all of Black, Brown and Beige on record, it was a disappointment.”
This sets the stage for this edition of “Liner Notes” – Columbia Records producer Irving Townsend’s description of the 1958 recording of Black, Brown and Beige, by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra, Featuring Mahalia Jackson,...
November 27th, 2013