Duke Ellington

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9780195059168: Duke Ellington

Music lovers everywhere have hailed Duke Ellington as one of the greatest geniuses of jazz. Yet, aside from Ellington's own rather unrevealing autobiography and a collection of reminiscences of his band members, no in-depth biography of this preeminent figure of twentieth-century music and entertainment has previously existed. James Lincoln Collier fills this gap with his definitive critical biography of both the man and his music.
Author of the highly acclaimed Louis Armstrong: An American Genius, Collier tells the full story of Edward Kennedy Ellington from his childhood as the pampered and adored only son of a middle-class Washington black family to his death in 1974 when over ten thousand people mourned at his funeral and The New York Times obituary proclaimed him "America's greatest composer." The volume features such highlights as the formation of Ellington's band, which ultimately included some of the greatest names in jazz history such as Barney Bigard, Johnny Hodges, Cootie Williams, Lawrence Brown, and Paul Gonsalves; his arrival at the legendary Cotton Club in Harlem in the 1920s; his involvement with his manager Irving Mills, who manipulated and cheated him and even put his own name on some of Ellington's songs, but also made him famous; and his relationship with his family, including his troubled relationship with his son, his marriage, and his many affairs.
Above all, Collier focuses on the creation of the music, from the classic songs such as "Sophisticated Lady" to the "sacred concerts" of Ellington's last years. He argues that we need to view Ellington not strictly as a "composer," but more importantly as an "improvising jazz musician." The whole band served as his instrument. Not all will agree with Collier's controversial assessments, but this compelling biography will enthrall jazz buffs as well as anyone interested in a fascinating life and times.

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About the Author:


About the Author:
James Lincoln Collier is the author of many books and articles on jazz, notably The Making of Jazz and Louis Armstrong: An American Genius.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Characterizing Ellington as ``perhaps the most important figure in American music of the 20th century,'' the author looks at the composer's personality and career, focusing especially on his musical strengths and weaknesses. Collier, who has written several books on the history of jazzincluding a longer one on the Dukeclaims that Ellington didn't have the discipline to study either his instrument or music theory and that consequently he never became a brilliant pianist, while his longer compositions lacked cohesive structure. He did have a gifted ear, however, and, in working out musical ideas with his band (his preferred method of composition), he developed a fresh, unique, instantly recognizable sound that led to a long string of hits and standards. Collier succumbs occasionally to Jazz Historians' Diseasetedious recitation of names and personnel changesbut he makes clear what most of the musicians who played with Ellington contributed in the way of special techniques or abilities, while his musical analyses are easy to follow. Brief bibliography and discography. Index not seen. (Biography. 12-15) -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Collier, James Lincoln
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