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Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington

Terry Teachout.
Publisher Gotham Books  
Format hardcover
ISBN 9781592407491
Pages/Publication Date 483/2013
Daedalus Item Code 39166
This item is not available.
The author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong, as well as a cultural critic, playwright, and musician, Terry Teachout offers this major biography of a singular musical figure. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the 20th century, assays Teachout—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world's most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some 1500 compositions, many of which, like "Mood Indigo" and "Sophisticated Lady," remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington's evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, "All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke."

"Teachout delivers a Duke unlike any we've seen in previous biographies ... [and] affirms that music was Ellington's greatest mistress—and to her, the composer was unrelentingly loyal."—Essence

"One might have thought yet another life, admittedly a 'synthesis,' 40 years after the subject's death might be superfluous. In this addition to our music literature, however, Teachout ... abundantly justifies the effort. Though respectful and musically knowing, Teachout presents the famously evasive and not altogether admirable Ellington (among other traits, procrastination, manipulativeness, and incorrigible womanizing) scars and all, including the rarely photographed one on his left cheek, inflicted by his jealous wife. It is Ellington's breathtakingly enormous musical contribution (1,700 compositions, from short pieces to major suites and sacred music) and his gift for collaboration, albeit often appropriation, that is the fitting focus of this important book. Included is a list of 'key recordings,' all currently downloadable, a perfect accompaniment to one's reading of this entertaining and valuable biography."—Booklist (starred review)

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