Monday, April 15, 2013
The Dreams of the Duke
Watching Ken Burns' JAZZ over the course of last week I was dismayed by some things, intrigued by others. For one, way too much hovering over death details--grieving for moms, last meals, etc-- for titans like Satchmo and Duke, and not enough about some of the other tragedies, like the death of Scott la Faro interrupting what was fixing up to be one of the most ESP-ish of jazz trios with Bill Evans. Mingus and Monk get little more than solos.
But one thing it did do for me was garner a newfound drive to find my old Duke Ellington disc. Now the man has made 100s of albums over a long, nonstop career of constant composing and touring, but I'm looking past the big band orchestral swing classicism and back to the 1930s with what was denigratingly referred to as 'jungle music' but which is now more than ever sounding like 'dream music.' With its soothing, lullaby-style melodics and gently rolling rhythm, Ellington's early sound is that rare hybrid that you can either dance or fall asleep to.
Here are some of my favorite video clips of the Duke's (below). I've written over on Acidemic in the past about my reverence for his 1929 short, "Black and Tan Fantasy" but surely there are others. And more than anything some of that dreamy ambiance reminded me of passages from the MGM opus, ZIEGFELD FOLLIES! I saw that film after emerging from a terrible flu and it just about expressed exactly some of the crazy visions I saw during my 36 hour nonstop delirium. Could it be that the world was just dreamier back in the 20s? Why not think so, since we'll never be there again... except in records... and dreams?