Tuesday, January 5, 2010

"On the Road with Duke Ellington" (DVD Review)

"On the Road with Duke Ellington" is less a full documentary of Duke's incomparable life as it is a glimpse of his life on the road in the mid to late 1960s. We hear him speak of his passion for music-making and life in general (including his philosophy of breakfast).

The film is minimally and tastefully narrated, and lets Duke and his orchestra do the talking. We see and hear Duke with his road band, with symphony orchestras, performing sacred music, and in a trio format, which ends the film. His rendition of "Take the A Train" accompanied by only bass and drums is (to use a Duke-ism) "beyond category." There is so much information supercharged in every note, every chord, and every pause...that one feels the entire history of jazz in just a few fleeting but unforgettable moments.

I hate most all television for many reasons, but this was shown on television in 1974. In this case, the medium fits the message, even if the man is larger than life. I recommend it to every student and lover of jazz.

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