American Legends: The Life of Duke Ellington

ISBN: 9781508482970

"I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues." "Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: When it ceases to be dangerous, you don't want it." (Duke Ellington)

A lot of ink has been spilled covering the lives of history's most influential figures, but how much of the forest is lost for the trees? In Charles River Editors' American Legends series, listeners can get caught up to speed on the lives of America's most important men and women in the time it takes to finish a commute, while learning interesting facts long forgotten or never known.

In 1956 Duke Ellington was featured on the cover of Time magazine after a bravura performance at the Newport Jazz Festival that summer. This remains one of his most iconic achievements and a landmark for jazz music as a whole; only four jazz musicians were ever displayed on the cover of Time. At the same time, however, this recognition stands as one of the prevailing ironies of Ellington's career, as he was deep into the latter stages of his performing life by this point. Indeed there was a way in which everything that Ellington had done up to that point in his career was obscured. Put differently, it is misleading to recognize Duke simply for his accomplished performance at the festival, as one could justifiably argue that he transformed the very nature of jazz (both its stylistic qualities and its cultural identity) in his career up until this point. Duke Ellington's career covers such a vast scope that it is difficult to locate exactly where it began.

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