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The Composers and Arrangers 193
do, prefer not to concern themselves with it. Even some of the most talented of jazz composers have never written orchestrations (Lennie Tristano, Charlie Parker and George Wallington are outstanding cases in point).
The listener, uninformed concerning these nuances, may praise a composition when in fact its only merit lies in the attractive orchestral setting given it by the arranger; or he may condemn the composer in an instance when a fine composition has been ruined by an incompetent, unfeeling arrangement.
In arranging, the manner of orchestration often determines the degree to which a performance may be classified as jazz. In composition the jazz element often is secondary or completely immaterial, and the line that usually separates jazz from popular music disappears completely. Duke Ellington is the greatest arranger (i.e., composer for orchestra) jazz has known; yet the melody of his Solitude could just as easily have been written by Irving Berlin. It is built from notes of the diatonic scale and is of little or no melodic interest; only the manner in which he voiced it in its first performance by the Ellington band led to its acceptance as a "standard." Ellington the songwriter operates on the same level as Richard Rodgers, Cole Porter and Jimmy McHugh; Ellington the arranger, a far more vital figure, must be viewed as a contemporary of John Lewis, Pete Rugolo, Quincy Jones.
This does not imply any disparagement of the songwriter, or of the non-orchestrating jazz composer. The mere fact of the general acceptance by many jazz soloists and writers of a tune such as Victor Young's Stella By Starlight in recent years is a reflection of their justifiable admiration for its melodic content and harmonic basis; on the other hand the same composer's Sweet Sue, which came to jazz acceptance in an era of harmonic simplicity, has no intrinsic value whatever, either as a popular song or as a jazz vehicle.
Since musical literacy in the first couple of decades of jazz was at a level that did not encompass any knowledge of orchestration, the value of every performance lay in the merit of the melody line and in its susceptibility to syncopation. The main source materials came from a blend of marches (some of Creole, French and Spanish origin), spirituals (the ragtime played on