Sunday, April 29, 2012

On Duke Ellington’s birthday

[October 27, 1973.]

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899.

YouTube has some brief 1973 clips of Duke Ellington in Sweden. At the Duke Ellington Music Society, Sven Eriksson reports that this footage was shot for Finnish television (YLE) in the city of Umeå on October 27, 1973. The Westminster Abbey performance of the Third Sacred Concert, mentioned in the interview, took place on October 24.

I’d never before seen Ellington on film this late in his life. (He died on May 24, 1974.) His charm is on display in the airport scene, as he removes his hat to bow to the ladies. But Ellington here is impatient. To a reporter at the airport: “No, you listen. You talk too much; you don’t listen enough.” And to the reporter in the longer interview scene: “We don’t do tours. We do this fifty-two weeks a year.” (Don’t these people read the papers?)

The most revealing comments here concern what the reporter calls “the jazz scene” (Ellington hated the word jazz) and the business of music:
Jazz? Well, I mean, the word to me means freedom of expression. That’s what I think of it, that’s all. And if it is accepted as an art, it is the same as any other art. The popularity of it doesn’t matter, doesn’t mean anything, because when you get into popularity, then you’re talking about money and not music.

When you say “Well, young people,” that means that young people are dictating. They are the dictators or the dictatresses of the day as far as the arts is concerned, and this is not true. The young people are the people who are buying, because they are told to buy, and they cannot buy what is not pressed. And there’s a little man known as a sales manager who tells them how many million to press. And then they tell the little children, they say “Now you buy this million,” and they do it. It has no relationship to music, and it has nothing to do with taste.
Other posts for Duke Ellington’s birthday: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

[For fanatics only: Russell Procope is visible behind Ellington at 0:14, Harry Carney at 0:22. I think that’s Mercer Ellington on the far left at 0:15. Ellington’s hat looks like the one he wore when recording This One’s for Blanton with Ray Brown in 1972. Who else could pull off wearing a hat like that? Thelonious Monk, I guess.]

comments: 2

Koralatov said...

I’m disappointed to note that you haven’t mentioned Ellington’s well-known love of Blackwing pencils, Johnson’s Baby Powder, balalaikas, or sombreros in your post.

Michael Leddy said...

:)