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Brian Priestly on BB&B

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In 1974, Brian Priestly – jazz writer and pianist among other things – and the arranger and composer Alan Cohen wrote what Mark Tucker has labelled ”the first serious analytical article on Black, Brown and Beige”.

In the early 1970’s, they spent considerable time listening to and transcribing several recordings of the suite and they also studied a score published by Tempo Music.

Their work was the basis for the recording of BB&B, which Alan Cohen did with his orchestra in 1972.

Having acquired a very detailed knowledge of the suite, they were able to write an article which Tucker has characterized as a ”densely detailed, section-by section discussion” with ”special attention to Ellington’s thematic treatment and unifying techniques”.

The article was originally commissioned by the British ”Jazz & Blues” magazine but finally published in ”Composer” – the bulletin of the Composers Guild of Great Britain. A reprint of it is included in The Duke Ellington Reader.

At the Ellington ’88 conference in Oldham, Brian Priestly revisited Black, Brown and Beige.

The Ellington Orchestra ended its ”Extended Ellington” concert on the third day of the conference with a performance of the work. For the occasion, Alan Cohen took over as guest conductor and he brought in Brian Priestly to play the piano as he had done when Cohen  recorded the suite in 1972.

In the afternoon before the concert, Priestly shared his analysis of and view on the work with the conference participants. It is a presentation not to be missed.

The performance of the BB&B at Ellington ’88 will be available on the website on September 28.


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