2010 European CD reissue.
Widely regarded as one of Ellington's finest works, this extended piece is intended as--in the Duke's words--"a tone parallel to the history of the American Negro."
Originally premiered in Carnegie Hall in 1943, it is a work of symphonic complexity and astonishing range and appeal. The performance on this Collector's Edition disc consists of two major parts of the complete piece, "Work Song" and "Come Sunday."
Each of these is further divided into six parts, through which the themes are stated, developed, restated, and set in dialogue with other voices. Shifting tempos, swelling orchestrations, and standout playing by Harry Carney, Quentin Jackson, Cat Anderson, and Ray Nance further heighten the impact of this Ellington masterwork.
The distinguishing mark, however, is the presence of Mahalia Jackson. Her rich, deeply soulful delivery on "Come Sunday" and the finale (in which Jackson sings the 23rd Psalm) give the piece the stirring immediacy that its subject matter demands. Jackson's performance and the elegant, dramatic interpretations of the Orchestra provide irrefutable evidence of the breadth and ambition of the Duke's compositional imagination.
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