The Book Of Jazz - online reference book

Its Nature, Instruments, Sources, Sounds, Development & Performers

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The Big Bands
Quiver) there were also such works as Echoes of the Jungle, Jungle Nights in Harlem, Jungle Blues. Ironically, for all its growls and pseudo-primitivism the Ellington music was further removed from the jungle than any other jazz then being performed. The unique timbre of the orchestra that helped give birth to the Ellington legend was no accident; it grew from the mating of great natural talent with skilled musicianship on the part of each instrumentalist, and from the welding of these talents into an inspired and cohesive whole through the use of orchestral voic-ings, melodic contours and rhythmic innovations that were the product of the Ellington genius.
Duke Ellington and his orchestra have gone through three important phases of musical creativity. The first, which lasted until the early 1930s, covered the years of instrumental experi­mentation on the level of new sounds, new frameworks for in­strumental solos, new variations on harmonic patterns that were common to all jazz. The second, which began in 1934 with Soli­tude, was the era of Ellington the songwriter, the creator of melodies, most of them originally conceived only with his own orchestra in mind, that were to become a beloved part of America's twentieth century popular music.
The third phase was Ellington's "extended forms'* era. Though he had tried several times during the 1930s to break the bonds of the three-minute record format (first with the eight-minute Creole Rhapsody in 1931, then with the four-part Reminiscing in Tempo, 1935) it was not until the world premier of Black, Brown and Beige at Carnegie Hall in January, 1943 that the most ambi­tious of his ventures was able to gain momentum. This work, 50 minutes long in its original version, combined all the traditional values of jazz, all the qualities that had developed from within, and applied them to what was nominally a programmatic work (a "tone parallel to the history of the American Negro" as the composer called it) with results that gave jazz a new dimension. From then until 1950 Ellington composed a new extended work annually for presentation at Carnegie Hall: among them were the Deep South Suite, New World A-Comin (titled after a book on American Negro life by Roi Ottley), the Liberian Suite, com­missioned by that country's government to celebrate its cen-