No one led a band like Duke Ellington, no one led a life like Duke Ellington, and no one wrote music like Duke Ellington. He composed his music as he composed his life — with flair, passion and individuality.
So, where do you start? To the jazz initiate, or for a fan who started somewhere else and has worked his or her way to Duke, approaching his legacy is daunting. Which records, heck, which decade, do you choose first? For the curious, the intimidated, Beyond Category; The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, is the perfect primer.
And it's even more special because it is a First Edition, hardback copy!
Choosing an Ellington book can be just as tough as choosing one of his records. There are loads of them, including Duke's own Music is My Mistress. But this one is the best entry point. No book reveals the man and his artistic evolution more brilliantly than Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, which was the first biography to draw on the vast Ellington archives at the Smithsonian Institution.
AND who better to craft such a work than Smithsonian curator John Edward Hasse, who created Jazz Appreciation Month, is the founder of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, as well as a Grammy-nominated writer recognized globally as the voice for American jazz music.
Drawing on previously untapped documents made available by Mercer Ellington's donation of his father's archives to the National Museum of American History, Hasse traces the Duke's development from his childhood in Washington, D.C., to New York City's Cotton Club to a career that took him on a seemingly endless tour through North America, Europe and the Near East playing with the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie and John Coltrane.
In Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington, the golden age in Harlem, the glory days of the Blanton-Webster band, the financial struggles of the early 1950s, the triumph at Newport in '55, are all recounted and placed into historical perspective, as are the final years of Ellington's long career.
Accompanied by 119 photographs from the Ellington archives, Hasse has written a delightful and finely detailed biography of the legendary Duke at work.
And for a nice touch, the summary at the end of each chapter reviews Ellington's most significant albums and songs of the period just discussed. These summaries serve as an excellent listening guide, since most of the albums and compilations mentioned are still in print and obtainable.
This First Edition of Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington definitely is a must-have must-read! You'll love it madly, just like the Duke! Don't miss Tidbits below!
And if you're looking for a real sweet pairing, then check out the great CD Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington: The Great Summit - Master Takes. The Duke and Satchmo in a one-time-only studio session working their mojo on 17 of Ellington's best songs!
For more great jazz, check out related items below, or go to our JAZZ COLLECTION
Check out Tidbits below for some more tasty bits about Duke - especially the interview!
Love You Madly - Duke Ellington Tribute TV Special Video - Man, what an All-Star lineup!
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