My apologies for my absence. My excuse: travel.
We were in the Southern United States in early July, returned home for a week and a half (in which work dominated every waking hour).
And then it was off to Italy.
We returned this week. I have caught up on your posts and comments, as well as all of Tom’s articles (and your comments) back at the mothership.
All of your posts have been fantastic. This community has covered an amazing range of topics–and a spectrum of emotions that is inspiring. Kudos to a summer well spent.
On the flight home, I looked back at what I had listened to while we were traveling, and I noticed that I had listened to one musician much more than anyone else:
I don’t know why. Perhaps, it is Ellington’s sound, which always prompts a sense of joy–and a little escapism.
Ellington does make me feel like I have travelled back in time.
In studying my favorites in his catalogue, I notice another theme: location and place.
So, I present to you all:
Around The World with Duke Ellington
This album was the result of Ellington’s tour of Asia. That tour was one of a series of tours, sponsored by the US Government during the Cold War, so as to promote Western culture abroad. I suppose the aim of that program was that jazz would promote ideals of freedom, spontaneity, and creativity. There is a documentary titled The Jazz Ambassadors that covers Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie’s tours. This is a beautiful record from start to finish. Go – right now – and listen to “Isfahan.”
Considered a follow up to the Far East Suite, I think this album is somewhat different. Whereas Far East Suite works within the paradigm and structures of the locale that inspired it, this album melds and fuses different cultures and different sounds. I am still waiting for Kendrick Lamar or an EDM artist to start sampling from this album. Afrique is the track to start with.
While this album is not situated in a place, it is a panorama of the various permutations of the blues, from the Mississippi to the stars.
A flawless album from start to finish. C Jam Blues or Smada (if I had to pick) are my favorites.
This album, on the other hand, is very much situated in its place. In a way, you can think of this as a prototype for a musician seizing the moment, at one special place, and becoming a legend. In other words, this is Hendrix at Woodstock – before Woodstock. Freddie Mercury at Live Aid – before Live Aid. Listen to Jeep’s Blues and Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
This album is, rightly so, acclaimed. However, I have yet to find the article in which a music journalist discusses the influence of New York City on Ellington, Mingus and Max Roach during these sessions. To my ears, this album captures the tense and frenetic energy of Manhattan.
I don’t think anyone, including Ellington, intended the record to be a reflection of NYC. But I can’t help but think NYC had some influence on the aggressive playing and dissonance that is the hallmark of this record.
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