BEYOND CATEGORY by John Edward Hasse


The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington
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 Essential biographical guide to composer/bandleader Duke Ellington's music, analyzing its development year by year with sidebar essays on the best recordings. Hasse (Curator of American Music/Smithsonian Institution) relates Ellington's life largely as it ties in with the music. Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974) was born to--and forever worshipped--the extremely beautiful, light-skinned Daisy Ellington, a primly refined Washingtonian, and to James Edward Ellington, once butler to a prominent doctor and at times caterer to events at the White House, who treated Daisy as a treasure, raised his family as if a millionaire, and dressed his son like a duke from his earliest years. Ellington said later, about his music, that ``my strongest influences, my inspirations, were all Negro''--but, as a child, sometimes the beauty of his mother's piano-playing caused him to burst into tears, and clearly the grain of his spirit came from his parents. Ellington forever broke new ground, never looked back or dwelled on his earlier music. Many--Hasse included--think him America's greatest composer, though the input of his sidemen and of fellow composer Billy Strayhorn must also be weighed in his accomplishments, from jungle music to the late cantatas. The 119 photos interspersed throughout the text boost immensely the rich atmosphere of Ellington's venues, including The Cotton Club and the tours that became the band's mainstay. Hasse follows closely the growth of the band and its orchestrations of its finest pieces- -``Creole Love Call,'' ``Mood Indigo,'' ``Sophisticated Lady,'' etc.--and their varied recordings over the decades. Brilliantly written. (Includes a select discography, filmography, and videography)

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-70387-0
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993