October 12, 2013


Duke Ellington, King of Jazz : Ellington transformed feelings into music-and his songs sound as fresh today as they did in his time (TERRY TEACHOUT, 10/12/13, WSJ)

What makes Ellington's music sound so powerfully, unmistakably individual? To begin with, he was the first jazz composer to write music that used the still-new medium of the big band with the same coloristic imagination brought by classical composers to their symphonic works. " You know, Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture, and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, 'Oh, yes, that's done like this,' "said André Previn, one of his best-informed admirers. "But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don't know what it is!"

Nor were Ellington's innovations limited to the field of orchestration. What set him apart was not his virtuoso command of instrumental timbre but how he used it. Mere arrangers took pop songs and dressed them up in new colors and harmonies, but Ellington, though he recorded his share of engagingly catchy hits, was better known and more widely esteemed for the pieces in which he used the language of jazz to say things that it had never said before.

Previn compared him to Stravinsky and Prokofiev; Percy Grainger compared him to Bach and Delius;. Ralph Ellison likened him to Ernest Hemingway Within the tight confines of a single 78 side, he spun "tone parallels" (a phrase he coined) to every imaginable human emotion. He and the 900 musicians who passed through his band sang of joy and loneliness, passion and despair, faith and hope.

Posted by at October 12, 2013 7:57 AM

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