Why Duke Ellington’s Music Is So Popular Today

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Aug 9, 2011 Comments Off Renatta DeBlase

Duke EllingtonDuke Ellington’s music is so alive today because of its universal appeal and because it is transgenerational. People are interested in Duke Ellington’s music because it is not only beautiful and a joy to listen to but it presents a vivid portrait of the Black experience in America. Just listen to “Black, Brown, and Beige,” a symphonic poem that depicts the various stages of the black experience, then listen to “There’s a New World aCommin’”, “My People,” “Come Sunday,” and the three Sacred Concerts themselves–all portray the magnificent African-American experience, and in doing so, Ellington touches on universal themes that appeal to music fans worldwide.

Music was at the center of Duke Ellington’s life, and his desire to experiment with different musical movements, other than Swing, which made him so popular during the 1930s, to employ the finest jazz musicians in the world, and to never stop composing enabled him to be judged one of the finest musicians in the world whose body of work is truly “beyond category,” as he himself described the type of music he played and composed.

The scope and versatility of Duke’s compositions, many of which are available on newly remastered CDs, is almost limitless. So, if a listener wants to listen to Swing music at its best, he or she can purchase Ellington recordings from the 1930s, and if a listener wants to listen to Duke’s later recordings where the orchestra has improved greatly under Duke’s guidance, he or she can purchase “Ellington Uptown” or “Duke Ellington: Piano Reflections,” both of which were recorded in the 1950s. Duke was also a master pianist, which is revealed in the “Piano Reflections.” And for longer, more serious symphonic works, the listener can purchase “Reminiscing in Tempo,” a tribute to Duke’s mother, Daisy, who passed away much too soon and from which the great musician never recovered, “Black, Brown, and Beige,” and all three of the Sacred Concerts. With such contributions as these, how can Duke Ellington’s music be overlooked or eventully forgotten? The school named in his honor in Washington, D.C. is a living memorial to the great artist and as they graduate, the new graduates are told to carry the spirit of Duke Ellington with them forever. See amazon.com for a complete list of Billy Taylor’s recordings and books as well as those of Duke Ellington.