Duke Ellington Orchestra British Tour – October 1958 003
Pages 2 and 3 of a souvenir brochure for Duke Ellington's tour of Britain 5th - 26th October 1958, presented by Harold Davison and Norman Granz. Stanley Dance discusses Duke Ellington's varied career.
|Catalogue Reference Number||NJA/PRO/6|
|Title or Caption|
|Event Date||5th - 26th October 1958|
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! ELOQUENCE OF ELLINGTON !
^ By STANLEY DANCE j
DUKE ELLINGTON is the most astonishing concentration of talent that the world of jazz has ever known. As pianist, bandleader, arranger, composer and songwriter he is, to use one of his own phrases, â beyond category For three decades he has outdistanced the competition with a serene ease that at times has been almost embarrassing.
It is, curiously enough, as a pianist that Duke is most underrated. Yet as Hugues Panassie is at pains to point out in the recently published symposium, Duke Ellington : His Life and Music â, it is at the piano Duke â talks the music that others will play â. His ideas are most easily realized at the piano, and they flow from it to the members of the orchestra, suggesting, prompting, urging, supporting and commanding. â Few realize,â the trumpeter Ruby Braff has written, â that when Duke is at the piano he is drumming the greatest . . . With his individuality still coming through. Duke has a wonderful touch. Itâs not noticed as much because, behind a solo, heâs playing in the background where heâs supposed to be not the foreground. His exemplary sensitivity to the needs of the soloist are particularly obvious in individual improvisations as widely varied as / Canât Get Started with Ray Nance and the Twenty-third Psalm with Mahalia Jackson. His apparently self-effacing role is, however, vital to the well-being of the of the orchestra, as attentive study will soon reveal.
His own solos have an elegance and a freshness of approach that is entirely personal. In construction and performance they bear little or no resemblance to the work of any other jazz pianist. To quote the perceptive Panassie again, â he has a way of thinking a chorus all of his own, and a touch that is peculiar to him, a unique style â. The album of piano solos he recorded in 1953 (Capitol LC.6670) was incredibly full of imagination and invention, and a new proof
of his unfailing ability to surprise and delight.
As a bandleader, Duke has led a big jazz group for longer than anyone else in the field, and this surely speaks for itself. More astonishing is the fact that during all this time he has been able to maintain a comfortable supremacy. When he last brought the band to England in 1933, this supremacy was acknowledged by musicians, critics and audience alike. It still is. This year, for instance, the band walked off with the honours in the International Criticsâ Poll of Down Beat,
the influential American music magazine.
In 1933 there were more big bands of quality than there are now. Indeed, Duke s only real competition today is provided by Count Basie, and Basie will never for a moment ride with those Who rate his band above Dukeâs. â Donât agree with you there,â heâll say. â Talk about taking care of business-Dukeâs the cat.â For him, Dukeâs is just the greatest band of all time.
That the Ellington orchestra has gloriously survived the sad times that befell the big jazz bands just after World War II is perhaps one more instance of Nature s law and the survival of the fittest. It is also another example of the .quiet determination with which Duke pursues his ends. He needs the band to express his ideas, of course, but more than that, he gets some of his own biggest thrills from its performance. â We are not,â he has said, one of those people who stay in the business only so long as business is good. We stay in it fifty-two weeks of the year And the most important thing we do, I think, is to present people we like ourselves.
The band is a band of personality-and personalities. As a unit, it expresses Dukeâs personality He plays piano in it, but essentially the orchestra is his instrument. It interprets his ideas and compositions as no other ever could or can, but the individuality of its components, the musicians within it, is never suppressed. Rather does Duke delight in presenting them to the best
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