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Duke Ellington: Symphony of the Body and Soul

Raul d'Gama Rose By

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And, of course this was the time of two of the most important musical relationships that Duke ever had throughout his career. First was the addition of Jimmy Blanton on bass—replacing Braud and Taylor. Duke first heard Blanton with Fate Marable and sat in later. He proceeded to try and trick Blanton into faltering as he rang in the changes. But Blanton was always in step, following the Duke as if he had anticipated what was coming next. Naturally, Duke decided that Blanton was his after this...naturally. And finally there was the introduction to Billy Strayhorn, who was to become, as Duke once said: "my right arm, my left arm... all the eye in the back of my head...my brain waves in his head and his in mine." There probably was no closer musical relationship that Ellington's and Strayhorn's... none that was so rich and indelible... So much so that there were times when one could not tell the two apart—not at the piano, nor in the music...And it all began here, with these bewitching small group recordings. I put on the first of seven CDs and amid the hiss of the tape on which they were once recorded, the eyes grow moist and the heart stops the breath as some of the most memorable music ever committed to tape begins to growl, then turn smooth... then, as some of the musical history of the 1930s and 1940s, unfolds a dance with Duke Ellington, body heart and soul begins...

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