Saturday, October 22, 2011

Duke's Flaw

For the past two years, I have been progressively initiated into the majestic world of Duke Ellington. The Maestro held together his big band for nearly fifty years, pioneered new jazz sounds, and kept developing as an artist. It is all so wonderful that I cannot stop getting Ellington CDs and books about the man.

However, to my mind, Duke has one fairly large musical flaw: hiring trumpeter, William "Cat" Anderson. Anderson was known for his high notes and bright tone. He could hit some remarkably high notes, but often attempted notes he could not hit (unlike, say, Doc Severinsen). Further, his highest notes sounded little like a trumpet, but not unlike a dying animal (a cat, perhaps). Duke gave Cat a lot of solo room, and often cringe at this attempts to hit the stratosphere. He almost managed to cancel out the beauty of the entire rest of the band at times.

Duke's other trumpeters were another matter: Ray Nance, Clark Terry, and so on. But Cat...I just do not understand it.

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