Thursday, 17 April 2014

Do the locomotion...

In his piece Fingers: Celebrating Ellington the Pianist, Reuben Jackson writes about Loco Madi from The Uwis Suite:

Shades of Myra Melford. Who knew an internationally celebrated bandleader (one who played "Satin Doll" nightly, for goodness sakes!) could "whup" a piano like Ali in his prime! But that is exactly what occurs in the intro (and throughout this infectious, shuffling blues) of this, the final movement of Duke's UWIS Suite, as he (in boxing parlance) "sticks and moves," shifts in and out of the key (F major), and virtually shuts the keys down, like an angry schoolchild shutting the lid of his desk. But what one what senses from this late period performance is not anger, but exhilaration -- no mean feat when one considers that by this juncture, Ellington had buried two of his most important interpreters, saxophonist Johnny Hodges (who died in 1970) and arranging-composing partner Billy Strayhorn in 1967.

The last chapter in Ellington’s characteristically affable but cryptic autobiography Music Is My Mistress is entitled "Retire To What?" and it's clear that this performance, which adds to his countless titles celebrating trains (and of course, motion) is his funky but polite refusal to depend on his Social Security card. The cadenza features Ellington and electric (!) bassist Wulf Freedman (providing delicious double stops) adding considerable fuel to this aural engine. Far hipper than AMTRAK, or even Japan's Bullet Train, Ellington's "Loco" like the Maestro in the midst of a concert ending finger snapping routine, seems to damn near saunter down the line.

Read the whole piece here

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