Black Brown & Beige
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, October 25, 1990
Following on the heels of the smashing, creative apex caught on The Blanton-Webster Years, Black, Brown & Beige encompasses segments of two suite-length works, Ellington's first long-form works. The segments from the set's title suite are rife with ambition, scoping historical motions while creating merely musical brilliance (small consolation indeed for not capturing the full flush of African American history's drama!). Billy Strayhorn's arranging and orchestration begins shading the Ellington band throughout this set, making it a gorgeously large unit that could spread its arms to embrace the richest melodies even while setting up soloists who tear the place up on their respective instruments. The bands are some of the best, featuring a well-built fullness that shows Ellington's complete awareness of each voice, from open-bore trumpet blasts to slack-toned saxophones. This is the Ellingtonian sound that Blanton-Webster sketched out and began to nurture. In its fullness, it's some historic big music, charting the ways bandleaders would use their sections for decades. And the creative successes taught Ellington that he could indeed proceed developing such large-scale, later works like The Far East Suite. --Andrew Bartlett
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Overall, great stuff for an any Ellington fan and generally good remastering.