Ellington is the Classical American
composer, with a world encircling understanding of the singularly
expressive, pointedly sensuous possibilities of Music. His use of
voice, vocalism, chorus, the incredibly beautiful harmonies...almost
never fully reproduced by those who seek to...are literally stunning.
Duke's Harmonic conception is Western
Blue, the depth, Blue Black Deep, inferring a natural "unison" use
of whole fabric of sound, placed precisely to caress the broadest
chromatic spectrum of itself as color and drama, mood and emotion.
Ellington's music is fundamentally lyric drama...Dramatic as sensuous
ideation, containing narrative, call & response. Tales of passion
or revelation, pain and uproarious joy.
Some recent highly touted interpretations
of Ellington seem superficial, the orchestra playing the written
notes but unable to create the deep colors, powerful moods and transcendent
imagery of the works, particularly the extended, more complex pieces,
like the great Suites.
Duke always tells a Tale or continues
it, in ideosonic images, as rhythm-melodic verse, chromatic color
mood sound emotion as living musical drama. This is the heavy historical
presence the music brings, narrative images. The formal rationalization
of Duke's music is the complex and inventive compositions. But the
maestro always explained to the orchestra What the pieces were about.
Their narrative Tale. The Mood's Meaning. E.g., "Characters", Settings,
Dramatic Contexts and Scenes, as musical creations, musical relationships
whose aesthetic whole is itself Narrative, ie, how it is put together..Musically!
Ellington explained in his rehearsals what those relationships,
of note, to phrase, to theme to emphasis, style, tempo create that
evoke the particularity of the image he sought. Its Story, description,
structure, musical functions, which propose a relationship direct
or as a result of, as indirect, that exist as an infinite number
of paradigms and examples. Metaphor is a function of anything, according
to its context.
Max Roach describing the sessions
that produced the great "Money Jungle" relates that at the first
rehearsal with himself and Charlie Mingus, before any music was
played, Duke explained the "Mise en Scene", i.e., the dramatic world
he wanted to create with that music.
But whether the initial material and
inspiration originates as Stride, Rag, old or new blues, they are
expanded in their Use and meaning in the music that follows. Ellington
combines, through the classic historical summation and convergence
of cultural elements, All the Music We Know!