Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Duke Meets the Queen

I read in Harvey Cohen's meticulously-researched volume, Duke Ellington's America, that the American Duke met the English Queen in 1958 while he was on tour in the United Kingdom. As was his wont with women, Mr. Ellington was quite captivated by her elegance and regal charms. The queen, however, could not attend any of the band's performances.

Instead of being bitter, angry, or merely disappointed, Ellington wrote a suite for her, "The Queen's Suite," and recorded it with his legendary ensemble. But something was quite different from other compositions and recordings. Duke made but one pressing of the piece and had it sent to Her Majesty. Ellington performed an achingly-beautiful solo piano section of the suite, "The Single Petal of a Rose," on occasion (as he did in London in mid 1960s), but nothing else. The full suite was only released after his death. Then the gift was made available for all to experience.

This event helps mark a remarkable, although very flawed, man, whose sentiments could themselves be quite regal.

What moral or lesson might you draw from this touching vignette

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