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Back to Duke Ellington Orchestra British Tour – November 1973

Duke Ellington Orchestra British Tour – November 1973 005

Duke Ellington Orchestra British Tour – November 1973 005

Pages 8 and 9 of a programme for Duke Ellington & his orchestra's tour of Britain, 1973. Page 8 concludes the biography of Duke Ellington, with a photograph of Ellington playing piano on page 9.

Image Details

Catalogue Reference Number NJA/PRO/10
Creator Derek Jewell, David Redfern
Date Made
Item Format Programme
Title or Caption
Event Date November 1973

This text has been generated by computer from the image and may contain typographical and/or grammatical errors.

Ellington is serious and unserious. Similarly, he has in his time inspired both love and irreverence from the musicians whom he has so marvellously led. “He may be a genius, but Jesus how he eats.” That’s what “Tricky Sam Nanton, for 20 years a trombonist in the band, said about him. 1 like it — even though I realise well that Duke’s appetite is no longer the gargantuan wonder it was.
Ellington and music? Well, how do you compress everything that there is to be said?
1 could, I suppose, discourse upon the orchestra whose sounds still delight the ears of the world. On this visit he s bringing some old taces — Russell Procope, Harry Carney, Chuck Connors, and his son, Mercer, for example, as well as new men like the 22-year-old drummer, “Rocky” White.
1 could talk about the fact that, apart from the Ellington Orchestra’s longevity, musicians like Carney, the late Johnny Hodges and Cootie Williams have been with the band for most of its existence- Indeed, the way in which Duke has managed to keep together so many musicians who are stars in their own right is remarkable.
1 could tell you that the character of Duke Ellington is too elusive to pin down. I could add my own opinion that he is our greatest living composer, and also advise you not to take my word for it, since musicians as varied as Constant Lambert, Percy Grainger, Stokowski and Stravinsky have all said in different ways that he is perhaps that only great living American composer. What is more, there was the list of names given by Ken Tynan, who included Ellington with Chaplin, Cocteau, Picasso and Hemingway as among those who share “a vast international reputation that can never be tarnished”.
I could explain that the most astonishing thing about Ellington is that in his seventies he is still flogging himself and the band around the world for 52 weeks a year, rarely if ever taking a holiday, and that most of his compositions have been written in railway carriages, telephone booths, recording studios, all night buses or on the telephone - a favourite device of his whilst his great co-composer and friend, Billy Stray horn, was alive.
I could then go on to indicate that Duke has written several thousand compositions. Some are pop songs (e.g. Sophisticated Lady or Satin Doll), some are instrumentals (e.g. Mood Indigo or C Jam Blues); some are major tone poems, suites and symphonies (e.g. Black Brown and Beige or Such Sweet Thunder). On top of this, he’s written scores of musicals, movies, sacred concerts and just about every musical form yet invented.
I could tell you that although many bands play Ellington’s music, no band plays it like Ellington’s, because he has written everything especially for that band, knowing every nuance of style and characteristic of his soloists.
As Billy Strayhorn once pointed out, he plays piano, but his real instrument is his orchestra.
I could add that he has been likened to Delius and Debussy, Mozart and Bach. And doubtless a whole book could be written upon Ellington’s musical innovations, which include the “growl” brass sound in jazz and “jungle” noises, plus his revolutionising the role of the string bass (through Jimmy Blanton, around 1940), and his treatment of jazz orchestrally with a wealth of complex melodies, harmonies, tone colours and rhythms.
Then there could be an analysis of his character. He is so many things: bon viveur, gourmet, genius, humorist, snappy dresser, health worrier and hypochondriac, hipster, sophisticate. He is certainly cool at all times. He has a very low pulse rate — and that’s good, for all of us.
And finally I might tell you about those religious feelings which have always motivated him and which nowadays make the music he writes for his Sacred Concerts so important to him. He once said, “I had three educations — the street comer, going to school and the Bible. The Bible is the most important. It taught me to look at a man’s insides instead of the outside of his suit.”
So, I could tell you all these things .... Instead I’ll say simply that Duke Ellington will still give you what is probably the greatest musical experience in the world today. He always tells his audiences he loves them madly. They doubtless feel the same way about him and his music. Enjoy them both while you can.
© Derek Jewell 1973
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
Robert Paterson wishes to thank the Musicians’ Union for approving the necessary Anglo-American exchange of musicians and the managers of the theatres and halls for their co-operation.
Photographs on pages 1, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13 & 20 by David Redfern, on pages 14 & 16 by Trevor Humphries.
In accordance with the requirements of the local authority, the following conditions must be observed :—
I The public may leave at the end of the performance by all exits and entrance doors and such doors must at that time be open.
2. All gangways, corridors staircases and external passageways intended for exit shall be kept entirely free from obstruction whether permanent or
3 Person? Thai I not be permitted to stand or sit in any of the gangways intersecting the seating, or to sit in any of the other gangways or any
unseated space in the Auditorium, unless standing in such space has been specially allowed by the Watch Committee, as applicable. If stand-
ing be permitted in the gangways at the sides and the rear of the seating it shall be limited to the numbers indicated in notices exhibited in
4. TheS*afety''curtain must be lowered and raised once immediately before the commencement of each performance», so as to ensure it being in proper working order.