Duke Ellington wrote a wonderful set of themes for Elizabeth II, The Queen’s Suite. Kevin Whitehead tells the story:
In 1958, at an arts festival in Yorkshire, Duke Ellington was presented to Queen Elizabeth II. They tied up the reception line for a few minutes, exchanging royal pleasantries; our Duke politely flirted with Her Majesty. Soon afterward, maybe that very night, Ellington outlined the movements of The Queen’s Suite. He recorded it with his orchestra the following year, sent it to Her Majesty, and declined to release it to the public in his lifetime.
Posterity has judged “The Single Petal of a Rose” as one of Ellington’s finest pieces for solo piano, and is frequently played by classical pianists in transcription.
The news of the Queen’s death is wall-to-wall on every channel. A friend from England wrote me this morning, saying, “We have mentally checked out as of yesterday…many events are are being postponed….It’s staggering.”
J.K. Rowling’s stories concerning fantasy and royal bloodline have given untold pleasure to untold millions. In a viral tweet yesterday, the author explained:
Some may find the outpouring of British shock and grief at this moment quaint or odd, but millions felt affection and respect for the woman who uncomplainingly filled her constitutional role for seventy years…Most British people have never known another monarch, so she’s been a thread winding through all our lives. She did her duty by the country right up until her dying hours, and became an enduring, positive symbol of Britain all over the world. She’s earned her rest. #TheQueen
Naturally, anyone with any depth at all knows that a phrase like “The English Monarchy” implies not just stately glamor, but tremendous violence and sadness as well. This is why I like having Rowling weigh in on the royal death. Humans seem to need heroic fairytales almost as much as they need oxygen, whether it is Harry Potter or Queen Elizabeth II.
In A Question of Upbringing, Anthony Powell writes, “There is always something solemn about change, even when accepted.”
Tonight is the beginning of the Harvest Moon. In Brooklyn last night, the gibbous was already stunning.
One of my first and most beloved cassettes was an anthology of early Count Basie. Most of the tape featured his famous big band, except for a lone piano feature, “Shine on Harvest Moon,” where the Count lazily spins variations over Freddie Green, Walter Page, and Jo Jones. There aren’t so many records of Basie playing standards from this era, but they are definitely an important puzzle piece, for Basie’s stark and open voicings on a Tin Pan Alley ditty absolutely foreshadow Thelonious Monk.
According to Wikipedia, the song debuted at the Ziegfeld Follies in 1908, and the composer attribution is in question. I never heard a vocal version, and am rather scandalized by the forthright request of natural light for evening lovemaking:
Oh, Shine on, shine on, harvest moon
Up in the sky;
I ain’t had no lovin’
Since April, January, June or July.
Snow time, ain’t no time to stay
Outdoors and spoon;
So shine on, shine on, harvest moon,
For me and my gal.