Essay on Black Brown Beige

Submitted By Micaela-Hernandez
Words: 689
Pages: 3

Larry Jansen
Micaela Hernandez
Margaret Samson
Black, Brown, And Beige: Metronome Edition Black, Brown, and Beige was a historic performance by composer/arranger Duke Ellington in January of 1943. This performance was Ellington’s longest and most ambitious to date, not only in the length but in the content and stature as well. With mixed reviews, the performance was widely contested in terms of the actual “parallels”, the performance, and the presentation. None the less, it is an epic performance deserving of its chance to be reviewed and appraised. In particular, the buildup and reviews in the periodical Metronome from January 1943 until March 1943 are going to give a good insight into the times, atmosphere, and reactions leading up to and after the monumental performance. In the reviews after the performance, the writers of Metronome didn’t much consider the content and the actual “tone parallels” of the music, but instead focused on the praise of the virtuosity, cleanliness, and brilliance of the performance itself. Rave reviews were written about every musician in Ellington’s band, praising their solos, the arrangements, even down to their outfits, “Every man in the organization, from the newest tyro to the oldest veteran, responded magnificently to the awesome surroundings at New York’s Carnegie Hall” (Metronome, 5). Along with many stellar reviews of individual soloists, the review was focused on the performance itself, as that was by far the highlight of the evening. Even the rehearsal the night before at the locoal high school was praised! At the rehearsal at Rye high school in New York, “Duke and his outfit gave a preview of the concert that was almost as thrilling as the performance the next night” (Metronome, 7). That is a true testament to the brilliance of Ellington’s band and Ellington as a band leader. Unfortunately, the only comment about the so called “tone parallel” was that it “[was] open to conjecture” (Metronome, 7). A bad sign indeed, as many of the reviews of the performance in other mediums and outlets mirrored those words, and even went as far as saying the message was completely lost or unclear. The complexity of the message of what Ellington was trying to convey was immense, and even in a 45 minute performance can be difficult to represent in a thoughtful and meaningful manner. Another potential downfall was Ellington’s nature itself. He was a procrastinator, and even a performance with months of preparation time and of this stature didn’t save him from this bad habit. Lots of reviewers could see and hear the lack of preparation in the performance, saying it was messy and felt rushed. Even Metronome quoted the intermission as being