Quentin Bryar writes…
DESUK — the Duke Ellington Society (UK) — AGM and annual Jazz Party on May 18 at the Pizza Express in Dean Street offers an unmissable chance to hear Duke Ellington’s challenging masterpiece ‘Black, Brown and Beige’ played live in Soho on a Saturday afternoon.
The students in the outstanding Guildhall Jazz Band, directed by saxophonist Martin Hathaway, have been busily rehearsing BB&B, the three-movement extended composition which Ellington described at its Carnegie Hall premiere in 1943 as “a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America.” That Carnegie Hall concert – Ellington’s first – was a major and keenly awaited cultural event, but New York critics notoriously and scandalously lambasted the work. As a measure of how the established view has caught up, Alex Ross has said the work “is about as sublime and deep as American music gets.”
The afternoon also features an appearance by trombonist and pianist Vince Prudente, who joined the Duke Ellington Orchestra on trombone in 1972 and played in the Third Sacred Concert at Westminster Abbey in 1973. Vince, who lives in Paris these days, is scheduled to take part in a Q&A with DESUK Chairman Peter Caswell before the Guildhall Jazz Band concert, and is also expected to play.
Admission is free to DESUK members and £10 to others. Entry is also free to anyone who join s DESUK on the day (annual subscription £20). Doors open at 12.30pm for the AGM, with the Guildhall Jazz Band concert scheduled for 2.15pm.