“DUKE 100 YEARS: ELLINGTON BOXED SET”
In April, 1899, in Washington D.C. Edward Kennedy Ellington was born. To acknowledge this genius’ work, Legacy Records has released a boxed set called, Duke 100 Years. We have received advanced copies of some of the disks. There will be a number of reissues and compilations to celebrate this man’s life; this release from Legacy is undeniably one of the cleanest recreations of work produced. This is a great time to re-acquaint with a genuine American legend, swing music and bop is making a comeback all over the place, including those clever GAP clothing ads.
Ellington was born into relatively comfortable circumstances. A deeply religious family, Ellington claimed to have been spoiled rotten by his parents. His mother was a piano player, and under her influence he began lessons under a teacher named Mrs. Clinkscales! In 1914, Ellington wrote his first compositions: “Soda Fountain Rag” and “What You Gonna Do When the Bed Breaks Down?” By age 18 he was leading bands in the D.C. area. By 20, the essence of Duke Ellington was locked in; he was a pianist, composer and bandleader. By the time the band was able to debut at the Cotton Club, Ellington had recruited Bubber Miley, on the trumpet, Joe “Tricky Sam” Nanton on trombone and Wellman Braud on Bass, Harry Carney on Saxaphone.
In 1927 came the first classic recordings of “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Creole Love Call”. Along with up tempo numbers such as “Hot and Bothered”, Ellington had managed what had never been quite as well done before. The quality of Ellington and his bands was that they played like a bunch of highly talented and wildly disparate individuals. Previously it was thought that excellence for a big band meant playing as if they were one man! Imagine that! Through this combination, Ellington was able to transcend the racial fences that plagued his times. He had the wit and the skill to hop the fence, crawl into the universal plane, which turned the music inside out, as if the music itself were winking at the audience!
The Duke did not get into long analysis of his own work. Yet, he was more than capable of translating his work into the words that stretch across eternity. Of “Mood Indigo”, he said, “just a story about a little girl and a little boy. They are about eight and the girl loves the boy. They never speak of it, of course, but she just likes the way he wears his hat. Everyday he comes to her house at a certain time and she sits in her window and waits. Then one day he doesn’t come. “Mood Indigo” just tells how she feels”. The music so audacious, simple, sophisticated, elegant, never cluttered, light and eternal; all characteristics of an Ellington piece.
Ellington was said to have written at least 2000 pieces, it may have been as much as 5000! For most readers, thinking about Duke Ellington is about as remote as finding an old, dusty Ellington LP in an attic! Not to worry. If you truly love music, this is the year to get a first rate collection of all of Sir Duke’s work. Duke 100 Years, will satisfy long after you run through all of the disks. The elegance of the music uplifted a troubled times. These current times aren’t nearly as troubled as 1930 – 1960, but they aren’t smooth waters, either! Expand your musical library, pick up the collection. You’ll hear music that has impacted many current musicians and satisfied so many, through so much.