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Articles | Featured | Future

RADIO

Beyond Category - Duke Ellington in the 1930s

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In the last hour, we heard Count Basie emerge as an exciting new voice from Kansas City. In this hour, we return to New York to follow Duke Ellington's innovative path through the 1930s as he experiments with longer musical forms while building one of his greatest bands featuring tenor player Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton. We are joined in this hour by Peter Spaar -bassist, composer, educator and member of the performance faculty of the McIntyre ...

RADIO

Up In Harlem - Duke Ellington

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In previous programs in this series, we have listened to Stride pianists and jazz orchestras from New York. In this hour, we'll return to Harlem to listen to maybe the most important band leader in jazz history and one of the most significant composers of the music--Duke Ellington. A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington moved (from Washington, DC) to New York at roughly the same time and established himself as a recording artist. By 1927, he was ...

RADIO

Christmas Gifts and Messages, Some From the Grinch

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If you haven't had your fill of Christmas, click the play button for last Saturday's holiday show. One of our rotating traditions is to program the Duke Ellington version of “The Nutcracker Suite." Our first segment tracks mostly old favorites that we play almost every year. The rest are offered for the first time on the show, including a 'Bah Humbug' segment.

ALBUM REVIEWS

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: The Treasury Shows Vol. 25

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Storyville Records, based in Copenhagen, have now completed the Herculean task of re-releasing all the Duke Ellington Treasury Show albums on CD. These are recordings of broadcasts made for the US Treasury Department from 1945 to 1953, to promote the sale of war bonds, often with plugs by Ellington himself, a staunch patriot. Volume 25 is the last 2-CD set to be issued. In addition to featuring the last-known Treasury broadcast from the Blue Note Club in ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Duke Ellington: Duke Ellington In Coventry

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During World War Two, the Germans rained tons of high explosives, including parachute air-mines and incendiary petroleum mines on the English city of Coventry. In addition to factories supporting the British war effort, they destroyed the city's emblematic cathedral. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda, took to using “Coventry" as a synonym for mass destruction. Enemy cities would be “Coventried," Goebbels proclaimed. It was revealed after the war that Churchill had received advance warning of the blitz ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: The Treasury Shows, Vol. 24

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The early 1950s were a worrying time for Duke Ellington. Musical tastes were changing and big bands were going out of business. Ellington was nervous. “I like to keep a band so I can write and hear the music next day," he said, “The only way you can do that is to pay the band and keep it on tap 52 weeks a year. By various little twists and turns, we manage to stay in business." In ...

MULTIPLE REVIEWS

Duke Ellington on Storyville Records

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The legend of Duke Ellington--one of very few jazzmen worthy of the overworked accolade “genius"--continues to unfold four decades after his death. In large part this is thanks to the efforts of Ellington himself. From 1950 to 1974, he kept a private “stockpile" of recordings made for his own pleasure... and with an eye on posterity. Following his death on May 24th 1974, Duke's son Mercer donated this “stockpile" to Danish Radio. Since then ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra: Rotterdam 1969

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Here's a succulent and long-hidden treat for Duke Ellington aficionados: a wide-ranging and reasonably well-recorded concert performance by the Ellington orchestra from 1969 at the Do Doelen Concert Hall in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Many of Ellington's tried-and-true favorites are here, along with a number of lesser-known themes such as tenor Paul Gonsalves' feature, “Up Jump"; “Come Off the Veldt (and Into the Bush)," a showpiece for drummer Rufus Jones; alto Johnny Hodges' star turn, “Black Butterfly"; and trumpeter Cat Anderson's ...

ANATOMY OF A STANDARD

"Prelude to a Kiss" by Duke Ellington

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Last month's initial installment of this column opened with an introduction to the concept of analyzing jazz standards for the purpose of adding to our understanding about the structure and elements of great songs having enduring qualities. I did not feel it required mentioning that a song's final structure and the process of songwriting were completely different viewpoints. One purview implies looking back at a final product of art and the other requires looking ahead at a blank page of ...

ALBUM REVIEWS

Duke Ellington And His Orchestra: Duke Ellington's Treasury Shows - Vol. 21

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This volume of the Duke Ellington Treasury Shows commemorates the death on July 20 1946 of Joe “Tricky Sam" Nanton, one of the founding fathers of the band's early “jungle" sound that helped make its name at the Cotton Club. Nanton was the first musician to die with Ellington and the leader--a highly superstitious man--took it as a bad omen. As indeed it was, heralding an end to stable line-ups and an extended period of “musical chairs" ...

BOOK REVIEWS

Why Jazz? A Concise Guide

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Why Jazz? A Concise Guide Kevin Whitehead 184 pages ISBN-10: 0199731187 Oxford, University Press 2011 Small books on big themes are a tough gig. Jazz is a uniquely American, musically challenging, and highly improvisational musical form. Jazz is also a rather vexing topic to explain to the uninitiated (or even to the initiated, who quarrel much over it). Several years ago, I played some late-period work of John Coltrane (the first four ...

WHAT IS JAZZ?

How Teachers can Swing in the Classroom

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I am a jazz aficionado as well as a philosophy professor. Being in front of a classroom teaching is my favorite place on earth, second to a good jazz club with hip friends. In the midst of a philosophy class, I may wax enthusiastic about the transcendent qualities of a John Coltrane saxophone solo or the preternatural swing of Buddy Rich's timekeeping or the song-writing and band-leading genius of Duke Ellington. These comments are not merely idiosyncratic. They reflect something ...