Duke Ellington’s music for Queen Elizabeth revived for new shows
The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra will play a three-concert tour of the country in early December with the show Inside Duke’s Mindin which the Duke Ellington tribute will include the music he wrote in honor of the late Queen Elizabeth.
Ellington and Billy Strayhorn wrote The Queen’s Suite after the great conductor met His Royal Highness in 1958 in Leeds, after a performance by his orchestra. The duke, enchanted by the cordial meeting, immediately begins the composition of the suite. He recorded the 20-minute work with his musicians and had it pressed onto a single disc for the Queen, sending it to Buckingham Palace and destining it for her ears only.
Ellington reimbursed his label, Columbia, some $2,500 in production costs, retaining the personal ownership of the masters. The sequel was not released until after his death in 1974, appearing on the 1976 collection The Ellington Suites. This set, which won a Grammy the following year as best jazz performance by a big band, also contains his Goitelas and Uwis suites, recorded in 1971 and 1972 respectively.
As the Scottish Daily Express reports, when the Queen presented Scottish National Jazz Orchestra founder and saxophonist Tommy Smith with his OBE in 2019, he asked her if she remembered receiving the record. She confirmed that she did and was known to be a huge admirer of the conductor’s work. The original score of the suite is now in the collection of the National Museum of American History.
Smith said, “The music was supposed to remain off the radar, but an album was finally released in 1976 after Ellington’s death. I’m really glad it’s because The Queen’s Suite features exceptional songwriting by Ellington and his co-composer/arranger, Billy Strayhorn, that is truly to be heard and appreciated.
The SNJOs Inside Duke’s Mind performances will now include music from the suite, in shows at Queen’s Hall Edinburgh on December 1, the Byre Theatre, St. Andrews, Fife (2) and the New Auditorium at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow (3). Learn more here about an evening described as “a fabulous program of favorite kicks, infectious swing, smooth ambience and contemporary jazz to inspire and entertain all. Great tunes such as ‘Mood Indigo’ or ‘Caravan’ will alternate with less familiar tunes, but all are guaranteed to produce an evening not to be missed. »
Listen to Duke Ellington The Queen’s Suite as part of The Ellington Suites on Apple Music and Spotify.