Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book of Duke

If American music had a Mount Rushmore, Duke Ellington surely would be on it.

Ellington (1899-1974) helped raise jazz to the status of art, putting together bands that defined the American soundtrack for a generation, stretching and teasing popular music in directions that spoke to audiences around the world.

But he's always been a little hard to figure. He's one of America's greatest composers, but he became so by appropriating others' music — and taking all the credit. His public persona was sophisticated, but his private life was a mess.

In Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington, cultural critic Terry Teachout sets out to untangle the contradictions surrounding the life and music of the jazz genius. By Teachout's own admission, he doesn't exactly decode the Duke — the man was never candid enough to honestly reveal himself — but "Duke" does provide rich context for the story of one of America's singular artists. MORE HERE

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