Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Style of Duke Ellington

In August 2013, when the Los Angeles Times published Mimi Melnick's obituary, I didn't catch that she was the same Mimi Clar I knew for her jazz writing, especially for her study of Ellington's style which was published in the Jazz Review journal of 1959.

In The Style of Duke Ellington Clar starts her argument by focusing on the problem of defining Ellington's style quoting André Previn who has said: "Stan Kenton can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio stranger can nod his head and say, 'Oh, yes, that's done like this, but Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns make a sound, and I don't know what it is!"

Mimi Clar continues:

"Much has already been written about how the Ellington orchestra reflects the styles of the men within the band; how at an Ellington rehearsal the composition and orchestration occur simultaneously; how an arrangement usually doesn't get written into the Ellington book until a certain amount of experimentation has taken place before live audiences; how Duke builds his arrangements around the strengths and weaknesses of his orchestra members; and how the force of his own personality seems to bring out the best in each single man yet moulds him to advantage into the orchestral whole. These factors contribute to the intangibles that defy the printed word or note."

The full article can be downloaded here in PDF format:


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