3

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra / Jo Ann Falletta: Duke Ellington: Black, Brown, and Beige

C. Michael Bailey By

Sign in to view read count
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra / Jo Ann Falletta: Duke Ellington: Black, Brown, and Beige Naxos Records' American Classics imprint was intended to highlight the domestic classical repertoire. This includes reaching from John Philip Sousa wind works and John Adams operas to Charles Ives songs and Leonard Bernstein Broadway shows. Jazz made a claim with the imprint, and the America Classics eventually included recordings of Scott Joplin rags, Art Tatum piano improvisations, George Gershwin extended concert pieces and William Grant Still symphonies. Oddly absent has been Duke Ellington...until now. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, under the baton of maestro Jo Ann Falletta, addresses some of Ellington's extended works, including "Harlem," "Black, Brown, and Beige," "Three Black Kings," and "The River."

These orchestral pieces, all extended compositions, leave little wonder where came the inspiration to keeper-of-the-flame Wynton Marsalis' longer works like the Pulitzer Prize- winning Blood on the Fields (Sony 1997) and Vitoria Suite (Emarcy, 2010). These works are intended as stage pieces, either as ballets or older forms. "Harlem," also titled "A Tone Parallel to Harlem"—a tone poem in the most romantic sense—bears the mark of Ellington's most assertive brass writing, a thread passing through all of his compositions. Ellington wants to convey from where he came. Muted trumpets and trombones establish a street conversation that evolves into a fractured swing, reflecting a jazz story. "Harlem" can be heard as an American soundtrack, big and brash with much to say in reflecting the extroverted personality of the New York City hamlet.

"Black, Brown, and Beige" is fully a suite in three parts, depicting three aspect of African-American life: "Black," acknowledging faith and hard work; "Brown," acknowledging African-Americans who served in the Civil War; and "Beige," a homage to the Harlem Renaissance. The suite is emotive and clearly wrought with lows accentuated in the deep reeds and highs in the bright gleam of brass. The ballet "Three Black Kings" was the last piece scored by Ellington before his passing, and left to be completed by Ellington's son, Mercer Ellington, after the composer's death. It pays tribute to three significant "Kings," Martin Luther King being the last. The MLK section is a slow swing flow not unlike a jazz rendering of Beethoven's allegretto from the classical composer's "Seventh Symphony." It is definitely a dance piece.

The disc closes with a full-throated, fully orchestrated and Re-harmonized "Take the 'A' Train," featuring a well-behaved trumpet solo by Tony Di Lorenzo, a percolating alto saxophone solo by Sal Andolina and an almost down-home violin solo by Amy Licata. The piece is freshly presented with few efforts to make it jazz (save the solos) and every effort to show it as a concert piece. Sonically, the Buffalo Philharmonic is captured a bit distantly on this disc, giving the recording very much a concert hall feel. Falletta dispatches her Ellington well, making the music smile through the orchestra in the same way the conductor has done so for the music of George Gershwin, Aaron Copland and John Corigliano.


Track Listing: Harlem; Black, Brown, and Beige; Three Black Kings; The River; Take The A Train.

Personnel: Sal Andolina: clarinet, alto saxophone; Tony Di Lorenzo: trumpet; Amy Licata: violin; Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jo Ann Falletta.

Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: Naxos


Related Video

Shop

More Articles

Read Akua's Dance CD/LP/Track Review Akua's Dance
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Daylight Ghosts CD/LP/Track Review Daylight Ghosts
by Mark Sullivan
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Live at PafA CD/LP/Track Review Live at PafA
by Matthew Aquiline
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Ocean of Storms CD/LP/Track Review Ocean of Storms
by Troy Dostert
Published: February 21, 2017
Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read "Live At The Open Gate" CD/LP/Track Review Live At The Open Gate
by John Sharpe
Published: August 29, 2016
Read "X-Ray Search Light Project: Djuke Music" CD/LP/Track Review X-Ray Search Light Project: Djuke Music
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 19, 2016
Read "Imagine Nation" CD/LP/Track Review Imagine Nation
by Mark Sullivan
Published: May 9, 2016
Read "The Scrambling Ex" CD/LP/Track Review The Scrambling Ex
by Dave Wayne
Published: March 24, 2016
Read "Heads & Tales Volume 2" CD/LP/Track Review Heads & Tales Volume 2
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!