Blue Engine Records has been on a roll this year. Two months into the still young year, the label has already released two more new live recordings from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, continuing the ongoing series of recordings that it released last year. That trend will continue next month when the label releases its latest JLCO recording Black, Brown & Beige. Scheduled for release March 6, the nine-song recording is an important new release, as it presents the timeless recording from Duke Ellington and his orchestra, live in its entirety. That presentation is just one of the items that makes the recording such an important new presentation from JLCO, and will be addressed shortly. The orchestra’s performance of the recording adds even more engagement and entertainment to the recording’s presentation. It will be addressed a little later. The recording’s production and mixing rounds out its most important elements. When it is considered along with the recording’s presentation and the group’s performance thereof, the whole of the recording proves to be one of this year’s best and most important live recordings.
The Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra’s forthcoming live performance of the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s timeless record Black, Brown & Beige is an important new offering from the group and from its label, Blue Engine Records. That is due in part to its very presentation. The presentation is so important because since Ellington and company originally debuted the performance in 1943 at Carnegie Hall, it rarely was performed live from that point on. According to information presented about that history, after performing it at Carnegie Hall and at Rye High School in Westchester County, NY, Ellington and his orchestra never performed the opus in whole again. Allegedly, Ellington said the reason for that was that he felt it was too long and that “too few people are familiar with the story” behind the recording. The story in question behind the song is what is meant to be a unique African-American history. Called by Marsalis, a recording that “sits alone in the history of Jazz,” few if any full presentations of this landmark composition have ever seen the light of day from Ellington and any other act. To that end, having the 48-minute performance presented in whole for the first time in a very long time makes this recording quite valuable in itself. It is just one part of what makes this presentation of Black, Brown & Beige so important and impressive. The orchestra’s performance of the composition is key in its own right.
The orchestra’s performance of Brown, Black & Beige is important because it is that performance that does such a good job of helping to tell the story that Ellington originally intended to tell with the expansive work. Brianna Thomas’ vocals on ‘Blues Theme Mauve,’ for instance goes such a long way toward exhibiting the life of the African-American during the early portion of the 20th century. Her vocal delivery presents such pain that translates so well. The third movement of the composition opens with the fully-energetic ‘Various Themes’ that shows in itself the changes that African-Americans were going through as America grew and changed. The contrast of the song’s energetic opening and its more subdued second movement – those subtle horn and piano lines – does so much to show that change. By comparison, the melancholy of ‘Come Sunday’ early on in the opus’ first movement evokes its own share of emotion, especially as it presents a very brief show of ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.’ Violinist Eli Bishop’s performance adds to this work to add even more impact to the song and overall performance. It’s just one more way in which the overall performance proves so pivotal to the whole of this presentation. When that performance in whole is considered along with the record’s very presentation, that whole goes a long way to show why the recording is such a welcome addition to any jazz aficionado’s music library. They are not the only key elements to examine, either. The record’s production and mixing round out its most important elements.
The production and mixing that went into Black, Brown & Beige is so important to note because without that work, the end product would not even be worth consideration. Considering that this is another live recording from JLCO, that work becomes even more important to note. That is because the sound balance between the musicians and their impact within the given venue – in this case, the Rose Theater – has to be considered even more than sound balance in a studio setting. Those behind the production and mixing are to be commended for their work just as much here as in JLCO’s previously released live recordings. The horns and percussion are expertly balanced with one another, as are the woodwinds with the rest of the orchestra. When Thomas’ vocals are added in during the very subtle ‘Blues Theme Mauve,’ her tone resonates so richly with the rest of the orchestra. The drums that open the recording in ‘Work Song’ are just as controlled in their presentation against the rest of the orchestra, as another example of the payoff of the production and mixing. That example, considered with the other examples noted here and so much more, it becomes clear that the time and effort that went into the recording’s production paid off and then some. Keeping this in mind as one examines the record’s presentation and the group’s performance of said presentation, the whole of Black, Brown & Beige proves to be jazz gold.
Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis’ latest live recording Black, Brown & Beige is another enjoyable offering from the organization. That is due in part to the fact that Ellington and his orchestra’s timeless work has so rarely been presented in full either in studio or in live setting. This presentation is one of the very rare moments in which it has been presented in full since its 1943 debut at Carnegie Hall. That alone makes it an important recording. The performance of the opus by the collective fully pays tribute to the original composition and those who performed said work. The production and mixing that went into creating the final product puts the finishing touch to the recording. Each item noted here makes the recording well worth owning by any jazz aficionado. All things considered, they make Black, Brown & Beige jazz gold. It will be available March 6 through Blue Engine Records. More information on this and other titles from Blue Engine Records is available online at:
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