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Kenny Burrell: Duke Ellington, The Great Paris Concert

William Ellis By

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Kenny Burrell: University of California, Los Angeles, 7th May 2013

The record the maestro recorded in Paris in 1963; there are many great things on this recording.

One that I particularly like—it's one of my favorite pieces in all of Ellingtonia and all music—is "Tone Parallel To Harlem," known as "Harlem Suite." This was commissioned in 1950 by Arturo Toscanini of The NBC Symphony Orchestra of New York. Duke Ellington at that point was pretty popular and also gaining recognition as a serious composer; at the time he was fifty one.

That piece has been recorded in many formats including symphony orchestras both here and in Europe and on various occasions by Ellington himself with his band. I think it's one of the most outstanding musical compositions ever written. It's a through composed piece of material. It's a great extended composition of jazz music that only Ellington could do.

One of the things you should listen to in this piece of music is the huge variety of time changes, the huge variety of harmonic changes and the huge variety of tonal color. It's amazing how he could get such variety with fifteen musicians. It's unbelievable, but he managed to do that and that's why he's considered by many not only the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century but the greatest composer of the twentieth century -and this is coming from some serious classical musicians who feel that way.

It's like all great art, the more you listen and the more you look, the more you hear, the more you see. I never tire of hearing this.

Listen closely and something else reveals itself.


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