Duke Ellington's America by Harvey G. Cohen

By Harvey G. Cohen

Few American artists in any medium have loved the overseas and lasting cultural impression of Duke Ellington. From jazz criteria akin to “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get round a lot Anymore,” to his longer, extra orchestral suites, to his management of the stellar massive band he toured and played with for many years after such a lot gigantic bands folded, Ellington represented a novel, pathbreaking strength in tune over the process a half-century. whilst, as the most well known black public figures in historical past, Ellington proven management on questions of civil rights, equality, and America’s position within the world.

With Duke Ellington’s the USA, Harvey G. Cohen paints a shiny photo of Ellington’s existence and instances, taking him from his adolescence within the black heart type enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of globally acclaim. Mining broad documents, many by no means sooner than on hand, plus new interviews with Ellington’s acquaintances, relatives, band individuals, and company affiliates, Cohen illuminates his always evolving method of composition, functionality, and the song business—as good as problems with race, equality and faith. Ellington’s personal voice, in the meantime, animates the e-book all through, giving Duke Ellington’s the US an intimacy and immediacy unrivaled by means of any prior account.

By some distance the main thorough and nuanced portrait but of this towering determine, Duke Ellington’s the United States highlights Ellington’s significance as a determine in American historical past in addition to in American track.

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New York City formed the center of the radio, recording, and publish22 Chapter One ing industries. It boasted the best theaters and show-business personalities galore. “It was New York that filled our imagination,” Ellington recalled, listing as proof the dozens of artists that he, Greer, and Hardwicke admired when they were in their early twenties. “We were awed by the neverending roll of great talents there . . Harlem, to our minds, did indeed have the world’s most glamorous atmosphere. ”21 One of the reasons Ellington gained international prominence and respect in New York, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars during the 1920s and 1930s while the Harlem Renaissance writers struggled to survive during the same period, is that a century-long tradition of successful black music productions and performers preceded him there.

By 1920, however, Washington started to lose its reputation as a haven for American blacks. President Wilson’s 1913 purge of blacks from federal government work eliminated many prestigious jobs for them. The violence against blacks following World War I included a race riot that raged for five days, provoked by false reports of black men attacking white women. The attacks by whites inspired blacks to take up arms against them. “Blacks were proud of their solidarity” by the end of the riot, David Levering Lewis reported.

His leadership in the Clef Club during the 1910s in New York City brought about improved working opportunities and reduced discrimination for black musicians. The club’s signature moment occurred on 2 May 1912, when Europe’s Clef Club orchestra, performing a “serious and dignified program of African American music,” became the first black orchestra to play Carnegie Hall. The audience for the show probably represented the first integrated audience for a concert in America. The enthusiastic reaction ensured numerous future bookings at “nearly all the best functions,” including gigs for upper-class clientele on yachts and in mansions, in both America and Europe.

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