3 ene. 2009

Why Duke? I am not sure why I chose that particular subject as my new year's resolution. I think it's because there is a lot there: a lot of music, a lot of critical commentary by others. There's a historical depth to a figure who was active from the 20s to the 70s. That's part of six separate decades. On the other hand, my current knowledge is relatively limited. I'm not the guy who knows who played trumpet in every encarnation of the Ellington band--though I would like to be that guy. There's a potential for great excesses of nerdiness here, which is always attractive.

I don't love all of Duke's music equally, nor am I am unqualified admirer or partisan. I don't have that passionate feeling that people who aren't Ellingtonians are despicable philistines, or a deep personal identification that clouds my vision. This also makes Ellington a better choice then, say, Monk. it will force me to investigate older forms of jazz, getting me out of my bop and hard bop rut, while allowing me to pursue my interest in the "Great American Songbook," to which Duke contributed a great number of compositions. I have about 11 hours of Duke Ellington music on my hard drive, so I won't have to make a substantial financial investment for this project either. I can listen to his music on long car drives or in my office while doing other things.

From the intellectual and cultural point of view, i think there are interesting questions to be considered. In particular the space that Ellington occupies in the "aspirational" uses of jazz. His music aspires toward (and achieves) a certain genteel quality which has an attractively pleasant middle-brow quality while still being pretty damned good.

Finally, there is Johnny Hodges, one of my favorite players, and a mainstay of the DE Orchestra for many years; Ben Webster; Billie Strayhorn, Duke's co-composer. In other words, the subject is finite, but at the same time not easily exhaustible.