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The evolution of jazz is. A survey of American art form from Scott Joplin to Lenny Tristan on. The evolution of jazz as 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. This week I'd like to conclude the section of the chorus concerned with the contributions to jazz of Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington returning first to the analysis of Ellington contained in saving Sidney think Stein's book on jazz. He writes that Ellington's forms at least in the shorter pieces are simple in outline yet fitting perfectly the demands of unity and variety the form he
most often uses may be described as a a a standing for the opening theme which is actually a group of two or three melodies and is antiphonal from the very first bar as it's repeated but the repetition is interestingly varied the statement the same but the solo answer a different B is a contrast a middle section frequently the section where the blues in are often treated as a series of solos or duets. Of course many of Alan's compositions are the blues in entirety. Then a returns but always on a new harmonic twist. The cadence or instrumental reply rounding out the performance somewhat like the classical coda. The old stomp rag and slow blues forms often return within this framework although so changed that they are apparent only as the skeleton of the music. Bragging in brass for example is a brilliant takeoff on Tiger Rag. Right.
May again point out that in large part the solos on these only din recordings are
improvised solos on the basis of course of the harmony and often of a very melodic figure provided by Ellington. The riff is an important element in Ellington's compositional practice but is never repeated to the point of monotony the riff as you recall is a repetition of the short melodic figures. It sometimes forms the opening band phrases answered by the solo instrument. Sometimes the band accompany him into the solos and has an rumpus in Richmond we heard last week. Sometimes the riff is the means through which the orchestra re-enters after a solo chorus. An important factor and progress has been the experimentation often carried on in smaller band units. Some of his most beautiful records are those made under the names of men who played with him for a long period of time such as Bonnie to guide Cody Williams Rex Stuart and Sonny Greer in these records his new musical ideas are distilled down to the smallest group of instrumentalists that can
handle them often resembling the old New Orleans combinations during the period when the sweeter and more symphonic records show that term is very definitely a misnomer. We consider the hallmark of his style the Duke address these hot or small group records to a more knowing audience such as those Johnny Hodges unit recording of that's the blues old man. You.
Are going. Although the records employing singers and popular songs are among the less
interesting things was done continues even these have great distinction compared to the work of the other song plugging bands of the time. The vocal sections are not nearly as sung chorus but part of a vocal instrumental form that has a beginning middle and end and an interesting constantly changing tambourine. More often Ellington has made up his own songs replacing the oversweet harmonically can find Tin Pan Alley ballad with a chromatic insinuatingly moving melodic line and he has made this kind of melodic line the basis as well for a number of large band compositions. Here are two of his own songs. One is this gently satirical one called Jump for joy. What
would your have you would be. Frequently on Ellington's work the diatonic and chromatic melodic line will
combine with the blues to produce a poly tonal music of two different musical systems used at the same time. COTTONTAIL based on the blues is an example of richly harmonized polytonal musically play that last week is another interesting example of harmonic boldness using definite modulations or key changes in definite polytonal passages yet with the music always lucid under control and rounded out. These performances in a large extent lead directly into advanced modern jazz harmony. Here all the way through we played an opening excerpt from it last week is Koko. There is the use.
Ellington's career concludes Finkelstein led him to cope with the musical problem of the Tin
Pan Alley ballad and its accompanying harmonic system great experimentation was needed to solve the problem for a time when Ellington moved away from the blues and folk inspired music of his early a period to such richer sounding work says reminiscing and temple all partially successful experiments in dissonance as Shambo in blue and dim. In blue all of which works I would recommend you listening to. It was thought that he was slipping backward but this was a necessary germination period out of which came the magnificent series on Victor Records of the late 30s and early 40s from which many of these examples have been taken where the blues return in full force but changed the harmonies freed from the Tin Pan Alley straight jacket and the form as Finkelstein phrases it perhaps overstated link in maculata in its unity. A great many tone poems written compositions atmosphere and mood pieces were inspired by Ellington. They are largely worthless as permanent music often representing only the commercially inspired practice of
duplicating in innumerable copies. Every stylistic device invented by creative jazz this is now happening with the inventions of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie but still within this process we find creative jazz raising the level of musical performance impermanent as these imitation of Ellington are. It is an advance for people to be listening to an orchestral music actually conceived in instrumental terms and a harmonic system is fresh and exciting as often enters into these works. It may be that as jazz continues to advance many of Ellington's records themselves will have lost their interest but there will be a core of about 50 that are enduring contributions to jazz into American music. Over and above this contribution Ellington's career was that of a man who has been an educated force in all of American music typical of the contributions that jazz has continually made to American life. This has been the product of a self educated musician struggling with some of the most abstruse problems of music. One of the most prohibitive conditions concerning Ellington's
larger scale works is black brown and beige Liberia's sweet and the others all have something to say in a later lecture. But we should utilize a brief biographical sketch of Ellington's beginnings in jazz to see how this representative of the Eastern Seaboard stream of jazz as he was at the beginning began to meet other musicians and also by means of this biographical fragment to provide additional social context for jazz in New York in the 20s. Barry Ulanov account says that Duke started out to be a painter and achieved sufficient distinction in the medium and high school in Washington D.C. to be offered a scholarship to Pratt Institute in New York. But in 1917 before he turned 18 he left high school in just a few months he would have graduated but the lure of music was too strong to begin with he was strictly a ragtime pianist imitating the flashy look of lucky Roberts examples of whose work we've played as he lifted his hands in wide arcs from the keyboard imitating
the striking sound of all the ragtime PNAC heard around his native Washington. He had not much training beyond a few lessons of the piano from his mother that began at the age of seven and some instructions in the rudiments of music by his music teacher in high school Henry Grant who noticed that the boy had a fresh interest in melody and originality in his harmonization of tunes. Ellington learned more by playing his job at the Poodle Dog Cafe where he composed his first tune the soda fountain rag. This is a very early recording of Ellington. I haven't been able to find the date in any discography. It was made for a nickel already and I would hazard it's perhaps the first or one of the first recordings of his anywhere and probably dates to the early 1980s. It's called the Jag walk and indicates the influence of ragtime on his style. The story is that Ellington composed his first soda fountain
riot by listening to a piano roll music of a James P. Johnson rag and spending several weeks analyzing it breaking it down and thereby learning the structure of the rag and thereby composing his own whenever possible. Ellington used to play at a local lodge hall with the other youngsters in his part of town who were learning the obvious from the devious ins and outs of improvised jazz. Well I should say that the extraneous noises on the records are as much a matter of arcane speculation to you as they are to me. I expect they have something to do with the operation of the Colonial. I played with other young students in his part of town and among his associates at a place called the true reformers hall in 1917 in the next two years with Toby Hardwick who was playing bass fiddle then later became an excellent Alto was Arthur Wetzel the cornet as too was a pre-medical student at Howard University and the banjo was Elmer Snowdon. Whenever possible Ellington
played one of the five pianos in Russell wordings huge band a strictly commercial organization that had little use for dupes imaginative ideas is great fun was playing with the little bands the outfits that played the choice one nighters that popped up from time to time especially on weekends around Washington. And he went to as many rent parties as he could get to learning a large amount from the rent party p.a. in Washington and later in Harlem. From a man called Dr Perry and while playing with him he put an ad in the telephone book explaining that he was available for all sorts of musical engagements and got his share of jobs and began to shape his personnel. He shifted Toby Hardwick to see melody saxophone moved Wetzel's Snowdon three brothers name Miller and a drummer behind him William Greer known variously as Little Willie and Sonny came to town to play at the Howard Theatre in the pit band and soon after left to join Ellington. Then they all left Washington to join the band leader Wilbur Swetnam in New York. He had sent for Greer But Greer
insisted that Ellington and Hardwick go along with him. The job with sweat man with us was short lived once again Ellington's irrepressible improvisation got him fired. But the Ellington Tony had discovered New York and Washington was never again. To them that anything but the place where they were born and had done their for his playing. In 1923 the year after the frustrating experience with sweaty men four of them were sent for again this time by Fats Waller who had met them when he played with a burlesque show in Washington in the spring of that year. Ellington went back to New York with Hardwick Greer Whetsel and Snowden their anticipations were high when they got to New York they found bad news awaiting them. There were only promises. No job but then the singer and mistress of ceremonies Ada Smith stepped in. Known as Bricktop the name under which she later opened a very successful nightclub in Paris. She had a reputation and she had connections. She got the boys a job at a nightclub in Harlem called Barron's which was a sumptuous and select uptown club patronized by the Downtown great of show business
by Harlem zone Brad Williams and by Jack Johnson the heavyweight champion barons was in a basement at one hundred thirty fourth Street and Seventh Avenue but according to the musicians who began to drop in regularly to hear the Washingtonians. Well this is an example of the cliches you occasionally find in jazz writing. Duke and his boys raise the roof. They played much rousing jazz and when their followers that way and they kept them with their soft and subtle transmutations of blues and ragtime phrases. Later they moved into a place called the Hollywood cafe at forty nine Street and Broadway where there were once again taken up by show folk and again their variations on traditional jazz themes caught hold. The variations were more spectacular at the Hollywood which shortly after their arrival was renamed the Kentucky Club. They had a solid rhythm section with the addition of guitarist Freddie guy. They had what they called inaccurately and unnecessarily a jungle est voice in the trombone of Charlie Ergen who growled gruffly and suggestively on his
horn using a large bottle cap for playing at a place called the Kentucky playing this jungle Istook music. They were ready for the attention of Bohemia and Park Avenue. Then both suddenly enthusiastic about the talents of the negro routed. They thought eroding Asli in the jungle. But Miley whose work we heard last week joined in late 1994 with his extraordinary variety of tambour more reliable and controllable the nervous is with the aid of a plumber's plunger as a mute barber. It was a New Yorker who had grown up with Bobby Stark. Later to work with Fletcher Henderson Freddy Jenkins later to work with Ellington and Benny Carter who also went with Ledger Henderson. They'd all grown up in the rough setting they call the jungle on 60 second Street. But James Bulger Mylie had learned a lot about the South from his mother and had listened long to the music of Southern negroes from a spiritual Hosanna that his mother and song you construct in the lovely melody which was his solo in Black and Tan Fantasy that was heard
last week that was one of the first great successes of the Ellington band. From the sound of trains in the conversations in them from the sound of organs enquires and Negro churches from the general hubbub of the night clubs in the particular cries of night clubbers from anything and everything you heard about him Baba made his music and Ellington was making what he called conversation music and was well aware of his potential of its potential qualities and he knew too that his best talker was Barbara Miley once again the importance of localized instrumentation in jazz. Miley set the style that Joe Nat enlarged on trombone when he joined the band in the spring of 1906 and thereafter the detailed biographical story can be found in this chapter on Duke Ellington and Barry Ulanov history of jazz in America and Ulanoff has also written a biography of Ellington. There is not yet however been a book of real stature on Ellington either from a biographical or musical musicological perspective.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Duke Ellington Continued, Part One
Producing Organization
WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program is a continuation of the focus 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
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Ellington, Duke, 1899-1974--Criticism and interpretation.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-23 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:42
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 23; Duke Ellington Continued, Part One,” 1954-04-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 4, 2023,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 23; Duke Ellington Continued, Part One.” 1954-04-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 4, 2023. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 23; Duke Ellington Continued, 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