Premiere: John Beasley’s MONK’estra Interprets ‘Come Sunday’

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Pianist, composer and arranger John Beasley returns for his third outing with the MONK’estra on MONK’estra Plays John Beasley (Mack Avenue.)

(Photo: Rob Shanahan)

Originally a part of Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown And Beige, the composition “Come Sunday” has taken on a life of its own during the past several decades. And bandleader John Beasley has included the tune on his upcoming album, MONK’estra Plays John Beasley, set for release Aug. 21 on Mack Avenue.

The tune, which features classical baritone Jubilant Sykes, is undergirded by a passionate wash of color, making use of a lyric that’s as salient today as when it was written in 1942.

“I wrote the arrangement of ‘Come Sunday’ shortly after re-reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and it was sort of like scoring that movie for me,” Beasley said. “We’re still struggling with the same issues of justice as in that book, and I hope this arrangement tells a musical story of hope; the hope that African Americans put in their music, and the hope that they share for the future of this country to strive for equality.”

The version here, Beasley said, leans on the idea that Gospel music has reached generations of jazz players, including Ellington and John Coltrane. Whatever the lens, Beasley’s arrangement, replete with a burning saxophone feature toward the final third of the piece, summons the spirit, exaltation and perseverance present in Duke’s original. DB



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June 2021
Vijay Iyer
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