Tuesday, 5 November 2013


I'm presently re-posting quite  a lot of material from Terry Teachout's blog About Last Night simply to keep a record of the publicity rounds he is making to promote Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington.

Of the latest broadcasts and appearances, it took a little while to track down Mr Teachout's conversation with Jordan Rich of WBZ-AM, Boston but you can listen to that broadcast here.

Update: Another radio interview with Mr Teachout by Steve Kraske on KCUR's Up to Date (an early Ellington record label, coincidentally) may be listened to here.

Tom Nolan, author of Artie Shaw: Three Chords for Beauty's Sake, has reviewed Duke for the San Francisco Chronicle. Read that review here.

The review by Michael Glitz of The Huffington Post may be read here.

There is a full question-and-answer, too, with Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online here.

In this piece, Mr Teachout says:

"...too many of Ellington’s fans don’t want to know the truth about their hero, who was both a great man and a deeply flawed one. Me, I believe that the greatest tribute that a biographer can pay to a genius — and that’s what Ellington was — is to tell the truth about him, even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts."

Well, avoiding the obvious riposte, courtesy of Pontius Pilate, What is the truth? I have to say that what worries me is not any details of Ellington's personal life - there may well have been more of the satyr than Satie about Ellington for all I know - but the emphasis Mr Teachout has given to the process by which the standards (Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, etc)were created and his own perceptions of the limitations of Ellington as composer which led one reviewer to pen the following paragraph:

"Ellington wasn't formally trained or even well-versed in classical music, so he found it difficult to write hummable tunes or structurally develop themes with any complexity. But he could meld together disparate musical fragments from his band members' solo performances, mastering a "mosaic method of composition." While not a flagrant plagiarist, Ellington still took most of the credit."

Is that really the impression of Ellington's art Mr Teachout wanted to give to the world? Is that the truth?

That particular piece was written by a Mr Bill Desowitz. You can read his piece here.

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