Duke Ellington & His Orchestra Perform "Take the 'A' Train," "Satin Doll," "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" & "VIP's Boogie/Jam with Sam"
Some musical accompaniment for Stephen Brown's essay — The Duke Ellington collective. An excerpt:
- That his band was Ellington’s instrument has become a cliché, but it is a misleading one. An instrument is a passive object that takes its energy from its operator. That’s not how Ellington worked. He was a tremendous talent-spotter, and part of what kept that talent close by was his willingness to let it have its voice, and more, to highlight and showcase it, and most importantly, to involve it in the creative process. We tend to fetishize originality and ownership (as though Rubens painted every inch of his canvases), but the Ellington band was in large part a collective. The perks of belonging to it were enormous. Steady work with great musicians, Ellington’s incomparable ability to feature his performers, his unending loyalty to them, the opportunity he gave them to be heard, recorded, broadcast around the world. There were drawbacks as well. Whatever came out of the Ellington studio bore Ellington’s name. The exception was work by his longtime collaborator, Billy Strayhorn. But their collaboration was so close that their contributions are often inseparable.