Duke Ellington: The big band was his instrument: Videos

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Well 2000 pieces, 100 tours, numerous jazz standards – Duke Ellington wore the music of African Americans in the world. Miles Davis also adored him and yet did not want to play in the grandmaster’s band.

“Lie down in a tenement to an air shaft, and you’ll feel the very heart of Harlem.” You hear quarrels, make intimate conversations, you smell the smell of the kitchen, you hear the caretaker’s dog barking, you smell coffee, you hear people pray, laugh, snore, the shaft is one big speaker. ” For example, Duke Ellington described how he soaked up moods that inspired him to create his “Harlem Suite” – his ode to New York’s Black Quarter represents both the suffering of the underprivileged and the emergence of a new self-confidence.

The nearly fifteen-minute work is part of one of the re-issue albums that appeared on the 120th birthday of Duke Ellington. As a musician of outstanding ability and influence, as a brilliant pianist and creatively whirling bandleader, he once raised jazz to contemporary art music. Appreciated by composers and conductors of classical music, Ellington also wrote street songs such as “Caravan,” “Solitude,” and “Satin Doll” – the titles may be familiar to a few outside the jazz community, but the tunes of these instrumental pieces resonate with millions around the globe.

From such catchy songs to sweeping suites, Ellington composed over 2000 in his 75 years of life; His creative power compares art historians with those of the tireless Pablo Picasso. In fact, Ellington wanted to be with 18 painters. As a musician, he “only gave up painting” apparently, judged the German jazz expert Joachim Ernst Berendt: “He does not paint in colors, but in tones.”

The “Jungle Style” reminded of voices in the jungle

Edward Kennedy Ellington, born on April 29, 1899, grew up in a middle-class house in Washington D.C. on, near Howard University, which emerged after the American Civil War for liberated blacks. It was the neighborhood of educated, economically better-off African Americans. His classmates called the piano playing and painting boys because of his lordly manners “Duke” (Duke).

The first Gagen conceded the young artist as a ragtime pianist in his native city. The famous pianist and entertainer Fats Waller gave him engagements in New York. Ellington’s orchestral career began at the legendary “Cotton Club” in Harlem. Here, for the first time, visitors heard his famous “Jungle Sound” – the pressed, rough tones of his wind instruments reminded of mournful voices in the nocturnal jungle.

Duke Ellington: The sound artist of jazz

Ellington worked in his compositions work songs black slaves, gospel and blues elements. “He recognized the possibilities of developing the New Orleans concepts for polyphony, call and response, breaks, grooves,” wrote jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Many of Ellington’s works came from collaborative rehearsals he once described:

“Maybe one guy in the band has an idea, and he plays it on his horn, maybe someone else is developing that idea, maybe someone is playing a riff, maybe one suggests a bit longer, and finally the saxophones still want to have a few yelps in their sentence. ”

Ellington recorded and processed his musicians’ ideas – he was outstanding at the piano, but his most important instrument was the Big Band. Just as directors have certain actors in mind when planning stagings, Ellington thought of certain musicians as he composed. He wrote a “Concerto for Cootie” for trumpeter Cootie Williams and dedicated his “Clarinet Lament” to clarinetist Barney Bigard.

Ellington’s sound painting was to become the music of the African-American – the “American negroe”, as he said in the language of the 1940s. He was aware that his people were more influenced by the present in the white world than by the black African past. Musically, this expressed his orchestral suite “Black, Brown and Beige”: The people of Africa were “black” when they arrived in America, they were “brown” during slavery and are now largely “beige”.

Miles Davis went smooth and ironed to the Duke

A white American critic who wrote to him in a letter urging him to return to Africa with his “jungle music,” Ellington mockingly replied, “In Africa you would hardly take it, because the blood of American blacks has over the generations the letter writer mixed; rather, one would probably welcome him in Europe.

This view does not mean a contempt for the African heritage. Ellington read books on the history of the continent and collected African art. He wrote the “Liberian Suite” and guested with his big band in 1966 at the first World Festival of Black Arts in Dakar, Senegal. Of course, unlike the Black Power generation since the 1960s, the proud African-American Ellington did not wear colorful Dashiki shirts, and his gentleman straightened his hair with gel.

Ellington always wanted to bring the best musicians to his band. Therefore, he tried in 1948 also to Miles Davis. The trumpeter, then 22, described in his autobiography the encounter with the otherwise ever-senior bandleader:

“So I go to Duke, ironed and ironed, I walk up the stairs to his office … and there’s Duke, in shorts, with a woman in her lap, man, I was shocked, the coolest, hottest, hippest guy He smiles at me and says that he’s scheduled me for fall, and I was so happy, really flattered, that one of my idols asks me if I want to join his band, the most amazing band the music scene. ”

Miles Davis turned down the offer because he “did not want to put himself in a musical drawer”. But he always worshiped Ellington. In the 23 passages in his book, in which Davis – the greatest blasphemer among all the jazzmen – mentions the duke, there is not a malicious word.

It has to swing, always

Ellington switched to swinging after his growl and wah-wah influenced Jungle style and wrote works in a sort of jazz symphony. This included “Such Sweet Thunder”: This confrontation with William Shakespeare portrays musical figures such as Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth, Hamlet and Othello – ideal templates for a sound artist like Ellington.

Ellington went on more than 100 tours around the world with his style-defining big bands. He accompanied Ella Fitzgerald and recorded records with the avant-garde Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. The Duke was received in the English royal house, the presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon asked him to the White House.

“Rising out of the elevator, I met the president,” Ellington wrote in his autobiography “Music Is My Mistress.” “Eisenhower shouted, ‘Duke, do not forget to play Mood Indigo.’ I found that quite remarkable for a victorious World War II general, and we played ‘Mood Indigo’ four times that evening. ”

Duke Ellington died on May 4, 1974. He summarized the principle of his thinking in a composition: “It’s Not Mean A Thing, If It Is Not Got That Swing” (here in the video) – Music means nothing if she has no swing.

Duke Ellington: Der Tonmaler des Jazz

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