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I am. I am I am I am I am. I am. I am evolution of jazz. I am a survey of American art form from Scott Joplin. I need to stop. The evolution of jazz is a tape recorded feature presented under the auspices of Northeastern University by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council Nat Hentoff associate editor of Downbeat Magazine discusses the growth of jazz from its roots in Europe and Africa and considers the musical as well as the sociological forces that shaped it. Mr Hentoff last week
we had begun a discussion of Duke Ellington and Sony thinking stone had made the important point that I think should be repeated that Ellington in terms of the new conditions he and Jazz had to face. Restored something of a social character not the musical character but the social character of New Orleans music. He gave jazz in a limited way a kind of permanent home in which you can enjoy a degree of security and still continue to experiment. He provided at least within the confines of his own band an opportunity for communal music making and on a higher technical level than had been possible in the past. At the same time owning a keen musical curiosity and a deep personal integrity he insisted on the right to change his music whenever he saw fit regardless of commercial demands. It was an achievement for him to build up so phenomenal a band as he did and hold its chord together over so long a period of time. It was
an achievement for him to avoid the morass of Tin Pan Alley song plugging or the blind alley of a successful style and remaining holed up in it that he grew as a musician and gave his fine creative instrumentalist radicalise a chance to grow. Ellington's accomplishment was to solve the problem of form and content for the large band at least in his own for his own needs. He did it not by trying to play up here in New Orleans blues and stop music rearranged for a larger band as Henderson to some extent did though his certainly was not here in New Orleans. But by recreating all the elements of New Orleans music instrumental in harmonic turns emphasis on harmony and jazz increased steadily through the 30s finally evolving into the harmonic complexities of the early modern jazz. What emerged was a music that could be traced back to the old roots and yet sounded fresh and new. Many jazz commentators noticing how different Ellington's
music sounded from the old jazz concluded he had made a complete break with it. The truth is the opposite. It was because he was faithful to the essential character of the old music that his music sounded different experiment is itself a characteristic of the old jazz. Ellington continuos its defiance of set patterns its constant welcoming and absorption of new ideas. Its unpredictable twists and turns always within the basic tradition. He made a large band of three trumpets three trombones four of five reeds in the form and rhythm section. As flexible subtle and strong a music instrument as the old seventies band capable of the most delicate shades of tone and the most lasting power. This was an achievement not of mechanical instrumental knowledge but a knowledge of harmony and mastery of the musical problem of the relation of harmony to instrumental tambourine. What is unique in Ellington's instrumental sense compared to that of other large band arrangers at least at
his time of his era and up until the 40s is his realisation that instrumental tambour is itself a part of harmony and harmony must be understood in terms of tempering such an appreciation of harmony takes into consideration not only the tones directly produced by the instruments but also the overtones. These overtones the faintly heard tones that mix with the struck tone to produce the characteristic color. What tambour of an instrument tones that have their place in the musical scale. Ellington built his chords on the understanding that when two or three instruments perform together their overtones also combine along with the notes directly played and either strengthen or muddy the resulting harmony. In other words. A chord played by clarinet trumpet and trombone together was quite different from the same chord sounded on the piano. Indigo Ellington even added conscious musical Thank you. The microphone produced by the three combined instruments.
Has always been interested in the tambour of individual voices as combined with instruments. Later experiment. This high end of use of the voice and music of course is nothing new but in
jazz which to begin with is so localized to music its development has been advanced to a great extent by owing to. Here's a early example of his interest in this field in 1927 recording in which he used the growl voice of Adelaide Hong. Ellington's use of rigid cord and sound effects I continue quoting here from anything
goes dime has been assailed by jazz peeresses imitating romantic or impressionist composed music. There is something rather odd in their laughable English dances in the easy swinging about of names like babies who are devious as if such a comparison to such writers were insulting. There would be some point to the criticism of Ellington had merely borrowed from these composers as is sometimes done by the Tin Pan Alley arrangers and song manufactory. The prove of Ellington's quality lies in the force of the music itself which sounds exactly like no music written in Europe or anywhere else. It speaks a language of its own it has been imitated even by European composers far more than it has imitated anybody. The real power is that Ellington was working independently and within the harrowing limitations placed upon a band leader and me. Bellicose Lee competitive business entertainment world upon problems similar to those being worked upon by European composers. His achievements in orchestral sound Thamer and harmonic relations are in addition to musical
knowledge. I think I should repeat here something I mentioned in an earlier lecture with regard to the influence of DVRs and Ellington. I had never heard a composition by Delia's until he had read and been asked several times to comment on the assertion that he had been influenced by Delia's. At that point Ellington curious and I began to listen to Delia's compositions and as an experiment tried to write in that style. When he couldn't it came out Ellington nonetheless. Now we've been created not only a new sound for the large band but also a new idiom for and idiom drawn partly out of the blues partly out of popular ballad The Blues are generally the familiar basic 12 bar blues but harmonically more adventurous and dissonant intervals with a familiar basic blues chords chromatic notes. But giving the improvising musician the same concentrated emotional phrases the same ability to build a musical structure out of them the same freedom to soar without regard for traditional diatonic
harmony as in the past and the history of the grooves. In other words only to preserve the harmonic character of the blues but develop them ironically as in the aforementioned across the track blues. The cornet is that of Rex Stuart and it's interesting to compare his work here in the Ellington context from the solos you've heard him play with the Fletcher Henderson. I am I am
I am. The One. Another interesting point is the presence in that recording and in many of Ellington's recording of the
New Orleans clarinetist Bonnie regretted bringing that part of his background to the only thin band then the use as was mentioned in the section on you and clarinet as a particularly skilled use of a shallow move register of the clarinet. What I meant ended with a popular ballad idiom was just as right as what he did with the blues he dropped the melodic line. It was the opposite in a way to what he did with the blues. But just as opposite he dropped off in the melodic line was wit which was generally meaningless and develop a diatonic and chromatic harmonies that had entered jazz with the popular ballad among other sources creating his own farm or send us an interesting melody. The blues can be traced throughout Ellington's music. New Orleans music I think was done continuos was not a pure blues music but boasted a variety of musical language is achieving its finest music in an interplay of
Blues with one another idiom and this interplay became a basic characteristic of Ellington's music Black and Tan Fantasy for example. It was based on a New Orleans tune much like Oliver's chimes blues in the Canal Street Blues with a touch of Chopin's Funeral March. The best recording of it with those performed by Barbara Miley and as a digression rather necessary one. I think it might be well to talk about James Wesley Miley to give a further indication of the background of some of the musicians who were playing in New York in the early twenties and many of whom joined the Ellington Orchestra. Miley was born in 1933 in Aiken South Carolina. The family migrated to New York when Barbara was six and to augment the meager family income he became a wandering minstrel in the New York streets sometimes bringing home as much as $5 it's by the time he was 14. He was already taking music lessons from a German professor first on the trombone and then on the cornet the next year he joined the
Navy 1919 when his age was discovered some 18 months later he was honorably discharged and immediately began to play with a small band known as the Carolina five. With this group he attained the necessary experience playing down States boat rides in various cabaret jobs. He travelled again in 1923 on an extended tour of the South with a show called the Sunny South. At the end of the tour he had his first important engagement spot with Mamie Smith's jazz hound a combo that also included the young tenor Amanda Coleman Hawkins with the music. When he left the Mamie Smith Group he began to play a sort of dates around New York in about this time he struck up what proved to be a lasting friendship with Tricky cement in the trombonist a friendship that ultimately was to get met and started on the style for which he became so well known with Duke Ellington. The talking trombone that we'll hear more odd in the course of listening to the music of Ellington
Miley joined the Duke Ellington band in 1925 at the Kentucky Club and for some five years was an integral part of that organization he died instantly in the early 30s. It is to him that is generally attributed the first use of a rubber plunger as a mute. And he was one of the first musicians to make the Nu-Wood a meaningful part of jazz. The muted trumpet muted cornet he would often tell of the time he went to the ten cent store looking around for something new to mute his horn and how he suddenly came upon the rubber plunger is used by plumbers and he said that right there he took his trumpet out of its case and tried the plunger mute in the middle of the story to his own and everyone else was high and his melodic originality of someone hidden within his muted growl style. He fixed his notes into a melodic entity which listeners missed if they judge growl music in terms of intonation alone rather than on the basis of good or bad
actual musical line as well. Growl music as Roger dodge points out can be as musical than open brass playing which often leads to a florid virtue also style whereas the mute and competent hands like Barbara's coaxes out a closely knit jazz with a maximum of invention. It all depends really on the nature of the soloist by her back. Much prefer the open horn and was able to do some extremely beautiful and creative musical things with it. Similarly milers had better mileage preference was for the mute and as you will shortly hear it was a preference that was justified by his accomplishment. Here's the recording with the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Miley lied most jazz man was always experimenting musically. Unfortunately
unless he was supervised by someone like Ellington he never got around to putting his ideas on paper and many therefore died with him. Also like many jazz men bubur did set his solos on a number of compositions that was after he had played a piece like the Black and Tan Fantasy a number of times but he was not entirely improvising from that on naturally what he did was to play a developed version of an earlier improvisation which has happened all through the history of jazz from the BE COOL clarinet chorus on high society to the trombone correspond to move blues with bubur as with a creative jazz man of any style or era. His framing of choruses rather than sterilizing his work gave him a sound basis for even more incisive flights of melodic and rhythmic invention. Again like knowledge as the foundation of his work was his intense emotional feeling for the music the feeling was so contagious as
Ellington man had told me that there were nights when he played the Black and Tan Fantasy that even the most raucous and hard shelled of audiences were greatly moved. We were discussing the various really amazingly diverse sources of inspiration for Ellington's compositions for example Saint Louis too who is based on a minor key lament like a St. James Infirmary or Louis Armstrong's Type Like This. He often used Also many of the sweeter mountain inspired folk songs
such as those which open the Rocky Mountain lose the big nose blues Nicol of the jungles there until the swing. Or this Saturday night function. He also used chromatic Spanish mock Oriental and Cuban melodic lines as in with indigo boy meets horn the modes caravan rocking and rhythm Koko. And this Congo brother in all cases
playing these idioms against a straight lives.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Duke Ellington, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the music of Duke Ellington.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
Broadcast Date
Asset type
Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974--Criticism and interpretation.
Media type
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-22 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:27
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 22; Duke Ellington, Part One,” 1954-04-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 26, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 22; Duke Ellington, Part One.” 1954-04-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 26, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 22; Duke Ellington, Part One. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from