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Duke Ellington: The Music's "Great Spirit" (Fortsetzung) Teil 1 : 2 : 3 : 4 : 5

     So Duke, the most American of composers, The Afro- American Soul of American Classical music, is at the same time, the most cosmopolitan and most expressive avatar of a grand art registered as profound across the world, including the metropoles of Europe. Ellington is at once African and non-Western, as Western, international and local, Pan American, Pan African, American, Occidental, Oriental, &c. his amazing gifts to us, at times universally lyrical at others jam hot or some other times an innovative Symphonicopation still unreplicated by the soi-disant replicators.
     How? By absorbing all from where to when, like even the backbeat, rhythm and blues signature, Duke used for a long time (Check "Night Train", i.e., the second movement of the "Deep South Suite" or as the funky denouement of "Happy Go Lucky Local", or for that matter extended works like "Afro-Asian Eclipse" or "Far East Suite". That's why Miles, when he got into exclusive backbeatdom wrote the piece dedicated to Duke "Love You Madly", for Ellington had provided myriad examples, and one imagines, "permission" for Miles to appropriate what he must have considered a similarly advanced use of backbeat.
     Duke was "far out" and "way in" depending on what aspect of our experience he was musicking . It's why, say, Stravinsky, when he came to the US., always made it a point to dig what Ellington was doing (like if you asked Horowitz who was "the greatest pianist in the world" he'd tell you Art Tatum!)
     For Duke was both artist and historian- composer and raconteur, the West African cross -the -water, Afro -American Djali (Griot) of the Deep and the Very Deep.

Amiri Baraka 6-8/99


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