Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington (2020)

Duke A Life of Duke Ellington A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops A Life of Louis Armstrong Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century and an impenet
  • Title: Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington
  • Author: Terry Teachout
  • ISBN: 9781592407491
  • Page: 314
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops A Life of Louis Armstrong Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century 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 theA major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops A Life of Louis Armstrong Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century 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 fifteen hundred 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 As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington 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.
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      Terry Teachout

    One Reply to “Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington”

    1. I am disappointed in Teachout s Duke I admired his book on Louis Armstrong, not only because he writes elegant prose but also because his insights illuminate the complex character of Armstrong, making him real to me now than he was before I read Teachout s book Also, I like the way he embraced Louis later music the stuff high minded critics often dismiss as mere pandering as a natural extension of a popular art Teachout obviously loves the man Armstrong, and he communicates this love to the rea [...]

    2. This is one of the best biographies I ve ever read Not only for fans of Mr Ellington, but as a study of 20th century music and attitudes 60 or so pages in, I got rid of my other books on The Duke This is the best one I agree with Miles, that once a year, everyone who loves jazz should get down one bended knee to thank Duke Ellington

    3. Good bio of Duke My one gripe is that Teachout tells us over and over that Duke lacked formal training in arranging and orchestration and this had a negative effect on his writing My thought is that maybe that is what made Duke Duke The input on Duke s use of Billy Strayhorn and other sidemen has been common knowledge for years So nothing new here, but it is a good readable bio of a great musician.

    4. A man whose polished exterior rarely reflected what was going on inside, Duke Ellington was an auteur of the music world, who organized an orchestra of eccentric individual talents and played it like his own personal instrument He was a master at recognizing and editing the abilities of others and to create settings for them where they and the band shone and reflected their glory on himself As a relentless composer he plucked melodies and themes from wherever he heard them and gave them shapes a [...]

    5. This is one of the best written, well researched, captivating biographies I have ever read It s as much about the history of American music and Black history as it is about Music and the Man Reading Terry Teachout,the drama critic for The Wall Street Journal, is like having your favorite professor give you a crash course in music My benefit was a learning I didn t think I was capable of acquiring Admirable, and astonishing, he s that good.

    6. Well written, nice overview that doesn t get too bogged down in details, many tiny touches Duke is a lonely, unknowable man, but his music is well explained, his orchestras explained and traced Very good general biography.

    7. Teachout wrote a beautiful biography of a complicated man, and gratefully, he shies away from hagiography despite a clear love for Ellington and his music It s a largely chronological telling of Duke s life with a clear focus on his relationships with family, business partners, friends, and bandmates Teachout abstains from musical analysis in favor of painting a portrait of a man who was at once suave, sophisticated, highly intelligent, immensely caring and generous, yet also philandering, manip [...]

    8. This book brings to life the greatest American composer to live, in the class of Beethoven and all other great composers throughout history I also liked the insights into the times and people in his life, musicians, lovers, editors, and so on.

    9. Enjoyable, but runs out of steam over his later years Also is hard on his post 40s records i sometimes wondered if him and the penguin guide to jazz guys were taking about the same records

    10. I appreciate the amount of research Teachout did and the detailed information he provided, but, overall, this was an off putting attempt at a biography of Ellington Teachout had obviously formed a negative impression of his subject and it colored his presentation throughout It is one thing for a biographer to quote both positive and negative statements by those who knew the man and to share facts about his behavior, both good and bad it is another to say upfront He was a cheating, plagiarizing w [...]

    11. One of my heroes, guitarist Kenny Burrell loves Ellington so much that I had to read this very serviceable bio However, this book sadly shows that Ellington also hurt many people and often by taking musical ideas from others he d work with without properly crediting them I did not know that the famed Cotton Club in Harlem where Duke took up a long residency was strangely a whites only club Apart from giving the black cause his personal elegance as a symbol of racial aspiration, and giving a few [...]

    12. Terry Teachout s biography of Duke Ellington is a readable, compelling, and entertaining work all that I ve come to expect from a Teachout biography He s very good at presenting both sides of the story he presents his subject with warts and all, acknowledging the Duke s significant and unparalleled achievements in music without shying away from the fact that Ellington had significant formal limitations as a composer His exploration of the man in his public and private lives is comprehensive and [...]

    13. Terry Teachout now has added Duke Ellington to his list of musical biographies, started with Pops , about Louis Armstrong Augmenting these is one from the world of dance on George Balanchine and a journalistic adventure into the life of H.L Mencken None have disappointed Far from it All are as engaging as this masterful examination of The Duke, an American and musical icon.Teachout starts in the usual place, examining Duke s early life and his family, then moves on to Duke s career, his start in [...]

    14. Reading Duke A Life of Duke Ellington gave me the strong impression that the author Terry Teachout did not particularly like Duke Ellington Understandably, the individual in Teachout s book could be someone hard to love, Ellington is cast as someone who is manipulative, a womanizer, an individual who takes credit for the work of others despite his own genius, a procrastinator, and other labels that do not cast him in a positive light Teachout just about completely writes off Ellington s autobiog [...]

    15. I had high hopes for Duke based on Teachout s previous jazz biography, Pops a life of Louis Armstrong Pops was one of the best books I ve read in recent years and one of the very best biographies I ve read, period, so my expectations were well placed Duke didn t meet them, but that doesn t seem to be Teachout s fault Rather, as far as I can tell, blame sits squarely with Duke Ellington himself Ellington has long been understood as an artist who was supremely concerned with his public image, and [...]

    16. The 13 Best Biographies, Memoirs, and History Books of 2013Much like Freud engineered his own myth and Salinger crafted his personal legend, jazz legend Duke Ellington whose funeral was witnessed by 10,000 people in the pews at the Cathedral Church of St John the Divine, another 2,500 listening outside via loudspeakers, and thousands tuned into the live radio broadcast, even prompting President Nixon to take a timeout from Watergate and praise America s foremost composer sculpted his public ima [...]

    17. This book is about one of America s most prolific and admired jazz composers, who has some 1,700 compositions with his name attached The author has done a staggering amount of research and cross referenced his particular sources to quotes, stories and assertions he makes in each chapter He has done his homework about a man who clearly is an object of his affection and respect as a jazz critic The beauty of the book is the way it is broken into phases of the Ellington band s evolution These phase [...]

    18. A candid and pull no punches reassessment of Ellington s life and music Duke the man is shown as a vain, womanizing, self centered procrastinator with poor work habits but a fantastic ear Duke s legacy is described carefully not so much as the product of his personal genius but as his synthesis of other people s talents most famously, of course, that of Billy Strayhorn s Duke could be pompous and bloviating, but he knew that his talent was mostly putting together the perfect band of expensive ge [...]

    19. An unflinching look at one of the great composers jazzmen of the era Although we find out that some of the well known compositions weren t his they were written by his largely silent colleague, Billy Strayhorn.Teachout is sympathetic but honest about the shortcomings of Ellington, while celebrating his indisputable talent as a musician But Ellington was something else a striver, somebody who sought accolades, money and women Ellington aimed for legitimacy and to be in the upper eschelon of Blac [...]

    20. This book is slightly different than Duke Ellington s America, which I also gave 5 stars Mr Teachout has done a great job of portraying Duke s life and music He feels strongly that Duke s longer compositions were not well done he also is very critical of Duke s treatment of Billy Strayhorn and certain bandmembers who were not given the publishing credit that they deserved His sources are close to Duke and there are many great anecdotes Harvey Cohen Duke Ellington s America astonished me with his [...]

    21. Teachout does an excellent job of weaving Ellington s early life into the greater social and racial context of its time his treatment of the complicated world of being a top entertainer in the Harlem of the 20 s and 30 s was fascinating But as Ellington s fortunes shifted in the later 1940 s, and through the ups and downs of 30 years that followed, Teachout s portrait becomes one dimensional, and I felt at times that Ellington came across almost as pathetic Which is fine good biographies are al [...]

    22. Teachout says in his afterword that this book is not so much a work of scholarship as an act of synthesis, a narrative biography that is substantially based on the work of academic scholars and other researchers, and I think that is a very fair self assessment This one reads like the work of a very skilled journalist, and while he does bring his critical ear to Ellington s music, for the most part it is a carefully ordered step by step overview of the artist s life For me it really caught stride [...]

    23. As close to definitive as any Ellington biography could ever come, Teachout s new tome equals his achievement in Pops he gets to the heart of Ellington s character just as ably as he did Satchmo s, basing his portrait in the man s defects as well as in his achievements All of the mountain peaks are here the Washingtonians, the Cotton Club years, the coming of Strayhorn, Blanton Webster, Carnegie Hall, and beyond so, too, is the womanizing and the serial infidelity, the egomania, the laziness, th [...]

    24. I first discovered the existence of this book on the WBGO jazz website wbgo and I am glad I did I had always wanted to read Ellington s autobiography Music is My Mistress but never got a copy of it yet Just as well, for Mr Teachout claims that Duke held back on a lot of things that make an autobiography a must read personal insights, thoughts of his fellow musicians, family, etc He wanted to maintain his public persona right until the end, it appears.I am not a musician, but I love all genres, b [...]

    25. It took me a while to finish this book Part of the reason was that initially i was reading it along with a Lena Horne biography and I was mixing up the two careers in my mind Another reason is that I am just not that familiar with so many of these jazz players who are discussed That being stated, there is much to admire in Ellington and his attempts to maintain an elegant sense of propriety, at least publicly He strongly believed that he was always acting on behalf of his race On the other hand, [...]

    26. Ellington, his life, and work, are pretty interesting, but the way this biography was written was not The biographer established an idea of Ellington s character in the beginning, and that concept never evolved or changed, just continually stayed the same From a narrative point of view it s interesting to experience the evolution of a biography subject I also enjoy experiencing a vivid sense of place and time in the historical aspect of a biography, and I never felt twenties, thirties, forties, [...]

    27. I eagerly awaited this book It s very well written and meticulously researched No fault with the author But I was looking for Life of Duke Ellingtonhis life, his feelings, what motivated him etcI would say this is of a musician s book There s lots of he changed this from a B flat to a and he signed so and so to his band on April 6 I m making these examples up but they are indicative of the content It s very factual and almost solely about the inner workings of his orchestra In the author s def [...]

    28. Another Consummate biography from Teachout Duke is a well thought through nuanced warts and all Bio Ellington is without doubt a musical genius and wounded soul who was unnecessarily cruel to the many women in his life and let no one, not even family ever become too close He routinely stole ideas from his band members as well as frequent collaborator Billy Strayhorn Most times he made whatever material he pilfered infinitely better As a human being I lost a good deal of respect for him Even so, [...]

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