The history of Black, Brown & Beige began on June 23, 1943, when Duke Ellington premiered this extended work at Carnegie Hall. It wasn't Ellington's first attempt to create an extended work, which was longer than a typical jazz song and more related to the classical forms than to popular music. While the soundtrack he made for the short 1929 movie Black & Tan Fantasy included works from a number of previously recorded songs, it was presented in a kind of suite form, with the themes from these songs coming and going and presenting a dialogue with the images on screen. His 1931 ''Creole Rhapsody'' was a composition that went beyond the usual three-and-a-half-minute duration of a standard 78 r.p.m disc, and thus had to be divided onto two sides. A few years later, in 1935, his ''Reminiscing in Tempo'' would occupy four sides and had to be divided onto two discs. However, those were never his best selling records, and the reception of his 1943 suite Black, Brown & Beige was cold at best. This is due to the fact that apart from being an ambitious extended composition, it was thematically related to racial issues regarding the history of Afro-American people. Most critics could not accept the idea of Ellington composing long musical works and preferred to confine him to simple jazz songs (even though Ellington's songs were never simple). Duke insisted on performing Black, Brown & Beige at his next concert at Boston's Symphony Hall on January 28, 1943 (a concert that was also recorded, but that, unlike the show of January 23, was never issued in its entirety). However, following that he never played the whole work again. Instead, he only commercially recorded two fragments of the suite for Victor, ''Work Song'' and ''Come Sunday'', on December 11, 1944, and performed an abridged version of the suite during the (also recorded) Carnegie Hall concert that took place on December 19 of that year. From then on, Ellington performed only fragments of Black, Brown & Beige during concerts and broadcasts in the mid-forties, and no testimony of any part of the work being played exists between 1947 and the making of the album presented here, in 1958.