Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington
duke ellington i learned through my dad, or at least that's how i remember it from reading his eulogy. i've still got his smithsonian/ellington collection or something - it's vinyl and i don't have a needleplayer right now.
i got into duke ellington somewhat during my early years on wsrn - his music just sounded like jazz; quick, smart, sharp, funky. spirited.
later i learned about ellington some in my jazz history, and came to see him as a mismediaed painter. i saw the colour in his music, specifically titles with colours in them, but more the subtlty of mood lurking between his uptempo or swinging greats.
what really opened my eyes was hearing that he shifted things - put the tubas on top playing the melody and the clarinets underneath keeping time. reminds me a little of what jungle music done. and then Perry Farrell said Jane's Addiction was "a cross between Duke Ellington and Bad Brains" - so his aesthetic is still kickin'.
somehow i picture him doing as Dave Hickey spoke of his father doing, "this guy who would collect all these incongruous people around him and make sure that everybody got their solos" (air guitar, page 35). actually i like the quote more than it probably applies.knowing of him, feeling well moved by his music, i keep an eye out for quotes and passages about him. and i am pretty consistently reassured that he was a fellow of strong character, articulate and intelligent.
the first track on his excellent "far east suite" is called "tourist point of view," a pretty honest way to acknowledge looking at another land.
my personal recommendations based on ownership: "SRO" is some good live. "Ellington at Newport" is better live. unreal live. "Money Jungle" is Duke solo piano with Charlie Mingus and Max Roach - that's good and different.
early ellington, like the Decca Jungle sessions, is good crazy stuff. I've read about his gigs at the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 20s - intense racial plays where loinclothed dark black men kidnapped a scantly clad white woman wandering about the stage and a half dozen light skinned black folks jungle danced between. All the while, Ellington and his crew are keeping a fierce time with the growling trombones and the plodding delicious melodies. Funny to imagine all that while you are listening to the music.
for what it's worth, Ellington was a Taurus.