Duke Ellington: A Legend

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Whenever I go to a record store, I’ll comb through the LPs until I find a few albums that I’ve streamed front to back countless times – I’m guaranteed to like these because I’ve played them to death.

After that, I’ll look through the more obscure vinyls and grab a few that are under $5. These are a toss-up – admittedly, I’ve had to sit through listening to some painful records, but sometimes I strike gold. They’re usually old jazz or blues LPs. When I’m in my room listening to them, I’ll read a book or hack some crappy guitar improvisation on top of them.

The other day, I picked up Ellington: Live at Newport for $2.99. I’ve heard of Duke Ellington before, and the back of the record had a full write-up praising the concert. This morning while drinking a cup of coffee, I had it playing and I read it.

Never mind the music (it was good), this excerpt from the back was the biggest takeaway:

Throughout the rest of the performance, there were frequent bursts of wild dancing, and literally acres of people stood on their chairs, cheering and clapping.  But the management and the police, unable to sense the true atmosphere of that crowd as it felt from the stage, grew more apprehensive with every chorus. Fearful of a serious injury in the milling crowd, which by now had pressed forward down the aisles, producer George Wein and one of the officers tried to signal Duke to stop. Duke, sensing that to stop now might really cause a riot, chose instead to soothe the crowd down with a couple of quiet numbers.

This is so randomly awesome to me. Not only were these people in Rhode Island getting hype for Jazz music — music which most youngsters nowadays might regard as merely elevator music — but these people were getting so hype for it that an officer signaled Duke to stop and he was like, “Nah, I got this. I gotta give the people what they want.”.


A classic case of sticking it to the man. Mind you, this was in 1956 (!!!), about thirty years before Compton rap collective N.W.A.’s F*** The Police even came out. Duke was a man light years before his time.

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2 thoughts on Duke Ellington: A Legend

  1. Well written, and I agree with all of your analysis.

    In my view, there is only performer today who can compare to Duke Ellington in terms of giving people what they want, and that performer is Duke Silver.

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