Duke Ellington and His World Hardcover – 11 May 2001
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'An evocative and engrossing portrait of Ellington and Ellingtonia - one of the best available.' -- The Economist
'An informative look at one of the America's greatest musical figures.' -- Library Journal
'Jazz buffs will appreciate Lawrence's solid knowledge of the art form's history and key participants.' -- Kirkis Reviews
'The definitive biography of Duke that includes a musician's analysis of his entire musical development.' -- Nat Hentoff, jazz critic and author
'The remarkable life of Duke Ellington ... an excellent new biography of a jazz legend.' -- The Economist
About the Author
A. H. Lawrence was a professional jazz trombonist from 1944-48, playing with the bands of Hot Lips Page, Benny Carter, and Luis Russell. Through Russell, he met and befriended Ellington and remained friends with him throughout his life. Lawrence served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution for the exhibit, Jazz in Paris 1915-40. He lives in Cambridge, MA.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Unfortunately, I noticed quite a few oddities, in dates, attribution of composer credit, and elsewhere. I also wondered how this guy could have interviewed all these old timers, this late in the era. And I'd never heard of a trombonist of this name who played with Benny Carter, Luis Russell etc. in the Forties. And though I'm a thorough Ellington fan and personal admirer, I'm no scholar. So I had to wait till I stumbled on the "brief" by Steven Lasker, who is a scholar, to realize what a hoax this book is. Stick "depanorama stratemann lasker lawrence routledge" into the google search engine. You'll get a issue of the Duke Ellington Music Society bulletin from late 2001. Read it before you buy this book.
Routledge didn't originate the contract on this book. They bought it from some other outfit. Routledge used to be a standard issue publisher of unreadable academic jabber of the paramarxist school, parasitizing on English universities. In the last few years they've tried to break into the American popular market. Hence opportunistic stuff like this.
There's a Duke Ellington industry out there, appealing to scholars, musicologists and plain enthusiasts of good music. So there are bogus reissues on CD and preposterous books like this. The same thing happens with Mark Twain; you come to expect it. But damn Routledge for getting involved in the seamy side of it as they scramble to find a place in the dwindling high end market.
The book has two other big flaws. First, the 50s and 60s are really quickly treated and he will go through a year of the band's life in a couple of pages. I personally was first drawn to Ellington's music through this musically rich period and while the creation of some of Ellington's key suites like the Far East Suite is mentioned, I would have liked a better sense of what life in the band was like at this time.
The biggest problem, here, however, is that Lawrence the psychologist intervenes at times and leaves the reader with a sour taste in his mouth. I do not need speculation on the psychological nature and "narcissistic" elements of Ellington's personality. I'd rather get detailed research as to what happened in his personal life from varied sources and allow me, the intelligent reader, to draw my own conclusions. The fact that the last paragraph of the book concludes with a statement of his "profound narcissism" and how Ellington just wanted "everybody in the palm of my hand", diminishes the ultimate musical and spiritual legacy that Ellington left behind.
Right now, I don't see a major full length biography of Ellington on the market that I can completely endorse. This book has some value as a quick, though flawed, overview of the band while introducing members like the great Sonny Greer.
If you really want to see this book, wait until it is remaindered or piled on the "free" table - that should be soon.
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