Jerry Dammers, Duke Ellington and The Queen

The human being has patterned his every move, sound, and image after God’s other creatures and natural wonders.    So begins Music and the Primeval  by Duke Ellington.  Tonight alongside   Tomorrow’s Warriors Jazz Orchestra I kicked off  the first half  of the event with his words at The Queen Elizabeth Hall through a piece written by rising star of Jazz Peter Edwards.  The entire event was introduced by a letter from The Queen.

On 18th October 1958 Duke Ellington was presented to  Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at a private reception to  mark the bicentenary of Leeds Festival. So inspired was he by this  meeting, Ellington promised that he would compose a suite in honour of  The Queen.

Inspired by the beauty and majesty of nature, The Queen’s Suite, one of  Ellington’s greatest works, remained hidden from the public until after   Ellington’s death when it received its public premiere in 1998 in Oldham, UK performed by the Bob Wilber Orchestra.In a very special tribute, the newly formed Tomorrow’s Warriors Jazz Orchestratours Duke  Ellington’s The Queen’s Suite in its entirety, recreated by the exceptionally gifted young pianist/composer, Peter Edwards – a rising  star from Gary Crosby’s acclaimed Tomorrow’s Warriors artist  development programme who is without doubt one of the most promising  young artists of his generation.

I began the second half of the suite too,  with a poem written by Duke Ellington Called What Is Music. The audience was about eight hundred. The Tomorrows Warriors Jazz Orchestra were astounding and I felt I had seen, even been part of,  something special. An awakening. They sahll be artists in residence from September.

I stayed until the end then slipped into my office to change and as I left on my bike  a croaky  voice shouted out to me “lemn.”    It is the most recognisable voice: JerryDammers.  We did a track some ten to fifteen years ago.   Not only was he at the gig but he was at the open rehearsals.

This is the man part responsible for  my own political awakenings in the childrenshomes of Lancashire, the primary songwriter for The Specials.  “I’m going to dig thattrack out that we did...” he says. And  I am blasted  with pride.

The Journalist has gone to Sicily.

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