UT Jazz Orchestra with Carmen Bradford
Duke Ellington's Queenie Pie (Naxos / Longhorn Music)
Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., April 30, 2010
UT Jazz Orchestra with Carmen BradfordDuke Ellington's Queenie Pie (Naxos/Longhorn Music)
Last spring the UT Jazz Orchestra in collaboration with the Huston-Tillotson University Concert Choir presented a rare performance of Duke Ellington's comic folk opera, Queenie Pie. It was the first and only "official" production of Ellington's sole opera, which he didn't finish before his death in 1974. While the presentation was completed through the combined efforts of various sources, this subsequent album is the first recorded release of the opera and bears the unmistakable Ellington imprint of elegance, sophistication, and of course swing. The title role features Austin native Carmen Bradford, who was discovered on a local gig by Count Basie and toured as his star vocalist for almost a decade. A wonderfully expressive singer with a natural feel for the lead role, her contribution alone is worth the price of admission. More a musical than an actual opera, Queenie Pie provides a rare glimpse into yet another facet of Ellington's monumental contribution to American music.