Saturday, September 9, 2017

One for the Duke

More on Edward Kennedy Ellington, occasioned by reading Terry Teachout's biography, called, simply, "Duke."

Teachout, who earlier published a biography of Louis Armstrong (called "Pops") has done admirable research, and the book is especially good on the long-lasting Ellington sidemen: Johnny Hodges, Sonny Greer, Ben Webster, Jimmy Blanton, Barney Bigard, et al., on the fine singer Ivie Anderson, and on Duke's irreplaceable collaborator, Billy Strayhorn.

Only a mild quibble from this corner: In "Music Is My Mistress," Ellington wrote, "I don't drink any more. I retired undefeated champ about thirty years ago." Teachout writes that Ellington gave up drinking in 1939. But a decade or so after that, touring with the band through the Pacific Northwest, his beverage of choice, according to Terry Garner, was gin and milk.

Milk? With gin? Duke explained, "You have to be kind to your stomach, Sweetie."

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