Thursday, March 09, 2006

ding, hing, bing and ring

A very interesting Ellingtonian excerpt from the book "Composers' Voices from Ives to Ellington: An Oral History of American Music" on NewMusicBox.

Ellington on "jazz":

"We don't use the word jazz. As a matter of fact, we haven't used it since 1943. Everything is so highly personalized that you just can't find a category big enough, and jazz certainly isn't big enough a category to combine so many wonderful people in it. Everybody's got his own individual style. Like the Diz has got his 'ding,' and Hawk's got his 'hing,' and Bird had his 'bing,' and Rabbit has his 'ring.'"

Ellington and women:

"It got around that I was playing the piano, and when you play the piano you get exposed to the ladies. You become aware of them, and they become aware of you. A lot of people think I got bags under my eyes writing music late at night, but it's not true. No, actually what the bags under the eyes are, that's an accumulation of virtues [laughter]."

Ellington the technologist:

"The popular "Mood Indigo" of 1930 was scored for a trio of muted trumpet on melody, muted trombone in the middle, and clarinet on the bottom. Not only did this create a totally new sonority, but it utilized new technology: Ellington instructed the trio to stand close to the microphone to achieve a perfect blend, and he recalled that this was 'the first tune I wrote specially for microphone transmission.'"

Duke and royalty:

"The Duke Ellington Orchestra made its first tour abroad in 1933, with enormously successful performances in England and Paris. Ellington also had the opportunity to meet some of the British royal family; on one occasion, the prince of Wales even sat in on the drums!"

Ellington on swing:

"Swing was all the rage, and big bands led by such white bandleaders as Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Jimmy Dorsey were at the height of their popularity. This trend was an obstacle to Ellington's career. A key element of swing is rhythmic drive, and Ellington's band was criticized for not swinging. Its drummer, Sonny Greer, was more inclined toward elaborate and artistic drumming, and Ellington's compositions themselves tended to be more complex and innovative than the standard swing tunes. Ellington—who had written 'It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got that Swing)' years before the rise of swing—said: 'My definition of swing is that part of music that causes a bouncing buoyant terpsichorean urge. It makes you want to dance and bounce about. Of course, that isn't what's accepted today as swing. Swing today is a commercial label on a music itself. But we always thought that swing was an emotional element. We've always accepted it as that. It is something that you feel when the music is played. When your pulse and my pulse are together, we're swinging. That's total agreement, you know.'"

Lots of other interesting sidebars from Gunther Schuller, Juan Tizol and others.