Rockin’ in Rhythm – Part 1


Fifteen years ago, we ran a section called “Ellington at 85,” combining a few longish essays with a survey of records. This time, we’ve asked more than 40 jazz critics and historians to write 200 words each on any Ellington selection, album, tune, musician, or notion that the centenary mood inspired. Most of us chose recorded examples of the master’s art, and, fittingly and inevitably, the selections suggest a far different canvassing of his huge body of work than last time. We are still too close for consensus, yet I suspect Ellington will always inspire the kind of diversity you find here, because the labyrinth is so immense. Those who discovered him when he was alive often remain most smitten by the Ellington style that accompanied the moment of revelation. But all of us have gained entry at different points. There is no agreed-upon best-of starting gate, no defining Kind of Blue. One thing is certain: an unprecedented openness to all his music. Prejudices on behalf of prewar Ellington at the expense of postwar Ellington, or for Ellington the miniaturist versus Ellington the long-form composer, have withered on the vine.

One of the most intriguing results of the present conclave is the number of briefs on behalf of Ellington the pianist. Before 1970, every Ellington poll focused on the years 1940­43. Our 1984 poll made a strong case for the band of the ’60s, especially The Far East Suite and And His Mother Called Him Bill. In 1999, nearly a fifth of the respondents have chosen piano records. Beyond that, the most fascinating result is the number of recordings mentioned, the number of periods discussed. Only five albums, for example, were mentioned more than once: The Far East Suite and Money Jungle (thrice each); and Hifi Ellington Uptown, Piano in the Foreground, and Duke Ellington & John Coltrane (twice each). The original Black, Brown and Beige, unrecorded in its entirety by Ellington, was also mentioned twice. In terms of Ellington eras, a very loose breakdown— taking liberties with some of the more general pieces but counting each no more than once— looks like this: the late ’20s (5), the early ’30s (1), the middle ’30s (1), the late ’30s (3), the early ’40s (8), the late ’40s (1), the early ’50s (3), the middle ’50s (2), the late ’50s (4), the early ’60s (10), the middle ’60s (5). Nothing from after 1967. The outsize number representing the early 1960s (mostly piano music) is unexpected, suggesting that at least one generation of Ellington lovers came to him through his encounters with postbop modernists. The overall variety, however, is characteristic and illuminating (for one, Larry Kart is absolutely right about the amazing and overlooked “The Sergeant Was Shy”). This birthday salute has no scientific value; it’s an exercise in love, nostalgia, and respect. The Voice’s bicentennial tribute to Ellington will be another story entirely. —Gary Giddins

With so many recordings of Duke Ellington’s music— the dazzling new sounds he introduced in the 1920s, leading to the peak years of the ’40s, and so on— it’s easy to overlook the 1967 album, And His Mother Called Him Bill. Of the many celebrated relationships his vast catalogue documents, none could have mattered as much to Ellington as the bond he formed with Billy Strayhorn, whom he called, “my right arm, my left arm, and all the eyes in the back of my head.” And His Mother Called Him Bill, recorded just months after Strayhorn succumbed to cancer, bears the earmarks of most of Ellington’s work: tight section playing, thoroughly innovative harmonies, forward-leaning tone clusters by Duke on piano. In showcasing Strayhorn’s compositions, Ellington achieved much more. Saxophonist Johnny Hodges gives one of the greatest performances of his career on “Blood Count,” calling up anger, grief, pride, and doubt with a single sonorous line. And when Ellington sits down for a solo rendition of “Lotus Blossom,” the architecture of his famous monuments is cast aside: All we hear is the generosity and passion that built it and a longing for a collaboration that could never be replicated. —Larry Blumenfeld

Thanks to free Shakespeare-in-the-park programs, I was already familiar with the Bard’s plays when I attended the Town Hall premiere of Duke and Billy’s Shakespearean suite on April 28, 1957. In the succeeding four years, as undergrad and grad student, Elizabethan drama and poetry were my main focus. Shakespeare being to that literature what Ellington is to jazz, Such Sweet Thunder uniquely resonated for me. As Ellingtonia, it’s also tops, pushing the conventions of big band jazz as much as or more than any of the other Ellington-Strayhorn suites while stimulating the imaginations of all who are the least bit familiar with Shakespeare’s plays. The title tune is grand, processional swing via Othello. “Madness in Great Ones” (Hamlet) foreshadows the wild, episodic juxtapositions (paranoia?) of Downtown music; “Up and Down” is a hilarious, skipping romp, “Lady Mac” a waltzing one. Then there are the sonnets, miniatures as unique in tonal colors as they are original in form. Sensual and exotic, “Star-Crossed Lovers” and “Half the Fun” are perfect soundtracks for Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra. —George Kanzler

Sophisticated and elegant are the unavoidable adjectives when discussing Duke Ellington; his work is never less if frequently more. These qualities can be easily appreciated in his less monumental compositions. “Satin Doll” is a suave trifle recorded at Ellington’s first session for Capitol in 1953. The incomparable reed section leads the orchestra on an easy, tasteful vamp— very ’50s, ring-a-ding. But all that brass is framed by Ellington’s spare figures on piano, the dash of bitters in the gin. The song slips so easily into the ear you will find yourself singing along even if you don’t know Johnny Mercer’s lyrics. Every listening brings added pleasure in the masterly intricacy of a relaxed urbanity. “Satin Doll” may be airy but it is not frivolous; its appeal is easy but not simple. The sophisticated sensibility does not deny the existence of darkness; rather it makes the shadow part of the composition— like the bass solos and abrupt exclamations from the baritone sax that punctuate “Satin Doll.” It is this vinegar in the meringue that gives the song its evergreen enjoyment. For the sophisticate, fun is not a simple matter. To distill joy from existence is a constant and demanding task. To do it with style— to put the grinning skeleton in bells and motley— reveals just how tough-minded was Ellington’s joyousness. As Harold Ickes said of Franklin D. Roosevelt, “It’s the hard substance that can take the high polish!” —Michael Anderson

“Braggin’ in Brass” is one of several Ellington masterpieces based on “Tiger Rag” (some others are “Daybreak Express” and “Hot and Bothered”). A showpiece for the band in the 1938 Cotton Club show, it is a fascinating study in textures and rhythms. As the title reveals, it shows off the prowess of the Ellington trumpet and trombone sections, but the reeds are in there as well to provide support and expand the sonic palette. Cup-muted trumpets start it off at a tremendous tempo (speed did not come to jazz with bebop), followed by the trombones in a staggering (and staggered) display of interlocking notes (a device known as “hocket,” according to Gunther Schuller), quite unlike anything else in the annals of big band jazz. Cornetist Rex Stewart now takes two rhythmically contrasting choruses, filled with humorous inventions. A fiery ensemble backs a vehement Lawrence Brown trombone solo, and then Cootie Williams and his trumpet take us straight to Armstrong country. Actually, the entire performance is redolent of Louis. Like so much of Ellington in the ’30s (“Lazy Rhapsody” = “Sleepy Time Down South”), “Braggin’ in Brass” reveals that no one listened better to Louis than Duke. Bless ’em both! —Dan Morgenstern

To appreciate the effect Duke’s music first had on me, I guess you’d have to be a vulnerable female teenager back in the early 1930s. Pores wide open, eagerly responsive to all artistic expression, I was a sitting duck when Ellington’s music came into my life. And by the mid ’30s I was a goner. The roundhouse punch connected in 1936: “Yearning for Love” (a/k/a “Lawrence’s Concerto”). No clinical analysis needed here. Did I care how the arrangement was structured? Or that the recorded version was shorter than originally intended? All I knew was that a gorgeous feeling was shooting straight into my bloodstream. A stunningly handsome, seemingly aloof man was revealing, with each note he played, a secret passionate nature. “Yearning for Love” was the perfect title to go with the wishful scenario I constructed. Even now as I listen to that achingly beautiful Lawrence Brown trombone solo, I have trouble catching my breath. Talk about mixing memory with desire. You’d never know from these graceful sounds that a rift was brewing between the two principals. For Duke to continue to star such a valuable artist, despite their personal differences, tells us much about the maestro’s genius. —Jean Bach

I grew up on a musical diet of rock and roll until I was 16, when I heard my first jazz band— Cannonball Adderley— and landed on a new planet. My learning process was simple: I figured out the big names, went to Dayton’s on 8th Street, and bought any albums by them I could find for $1.99. I bought a lot. The first Ellington I encountered was, coincidentally, some of the first Ellington recorded, the early Victor classics, on a budget-line double album (two 10-song LPs for $1.99!) with a purple cartoon Ellington on the cover and a photo on the back of the most mysterious and elegant looking man I had ever seen. It was, without question, the oldest music I had ever heard and I was bewitched; it was the shock of the old. The throaty growls on “Black and Tan Fantasy”! The surreal wordless vocal on “Creole Love Call”! That dark rhythmic riptide and burbling saxophone of “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”! The weird harmonies and percussive puckety-pucks of “The Mooche”! Those crazy gongs and laughing reeds on “Ring Dem Bells”! “Mood Indigo”!!!! My world shifted. Those magnificent early Victor records and that breathtaking “jungle band” have a permanent grip on my heart. —Lee Jeske

I was walking down Fifth Avenue’s Museum Mile one summer night when I walked into “In a Sentimental Mood.” It was my first time and I couldn’t have been more undone by the melody if I’d been a snake and this very good streetcorner saxophonist my personal charmer. Subsequent inquiry revealed that the tune had been written by Duke Ellington and that the most salubrious version was to be found on the 1962 album Duke Ellington & John Coltrane. Could that be right? I didn’t know much about jazz but I loved Coltrane while Ellington for me was just a dapper image out of a ’30s black-and-white movie. The album and particularly the song cured me of such callow notions. Duke’s brief piano intro on “In a Sentimental Mood” was a revelation in itself— chiming, slightly dissonant, slightly Chinese-sounding and totally hip in a seemingly offhand way. So much for my Trane-derived notion that jazz had to sound agonized to be important, so much for my one-dimensional reading of Coltrane who, tempered by mouthpiece troubles and his own reverence for Ellington, follows the piano vamp with a straightforward and unsurpassingly gorgeous reading of the melody. —Joseph Hooper

It’s too bad some ruthless Hollywood editor cut to ribbons the score Ellington and Strayhorn wrote for Anatomy of a Murder (1959). But sew the snippets together again— with your imagination or tape recorder— and you have one of their most haunting extended works, a 35-minute sonic drama that features gorgeous playing by the band and memorable cameos by many of its leading soloists. Like Otto Preminger’s film, the music explores tangled emotions, unanswered questions, and moral ambiguity. The theme Johnny Hodges plays in “Flirtibird” suggests the dangerous eroticism of Laura Manion (Lee Remick’s character), while in “Almost Cried,” Harold Shorty Baker recasts the same melody to expose her loneliness and vulnerability. “Hero to Zero” tells the story of murder victim Barney Quill by moving abruptly from an exuberant up-tempo section to a dirge for tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves that ends with richly dissonant chords dangling in the air. “Sunswept Sunday” is another study in contrasts, showing small-town America to be a place of communal solidarity (i.e., the consoling, hymnlike tune) and individual isolation (the plaintive duet for clarinet and trombone). Anatomy of a Murder shows Ellington and Strayhorn probing the tensions and anomalies of everyday life, searching for clues, like Jimmy Stewart in the movie, to the insolvable mystery of human behavior. —Mark Tucker

Beneath Duke Ellington’s onstage persona, the most luxuriant (in fact the only) demonstration of elegance as sustained irony ever witnessed in American entertainment, lay a far deeper, tougher, more essential kind of elegance that spoke with absolute originality and a majestic inclusiveness over a vast range of human experience. This was the elegance that emerged whenever he addressed a piano keyboard. If Ellington had been born without the particular gifts and desires necessary to put together and maintain an “orchestra,” but otherwise unchanged; if he had spent his life leading small groups and playing solo, his reputation would not be significantly less than it is now. Along with James P. Johnson, Waller, Tatum, and a handful of others, he would be recognized as a commanding figure in the history of jazz piano, therefore in jazz itself. All of Ellington’s piano-centered recordings are glorious, especially Duke Ellington the Pianist and Solos, Duets and Trios, which contains the groundbreaking duets with Jimmy Blanton. But Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington puts Ellington’s genius as both accompanist and soloist in particularly sharp focus. You can hear exactly where Thelonious Monk and Jimmy Rowles found inspiration, and Duke’s earthy, sublime, percussive playing offers surprise after surprise. —Peter Straub

Believing as I do that the three greatest minutes in all of American music are contained within the bar lines of Ellington’s 1940 “Ko-Ko,” it has to be my choice for Duke’s greatest piece. (Except, perhaps, for “Concerto for Cootie.” Or “Harlem Air Shaft.” Or maybe “Warm Valley.” Or . . . ) “Ko-Ko” ‘s perfect crescendo-diminuendo architecture, its rocketing intensity, Jimmy Blanton’s leaping bass breaks, the Harry Carney foundation the whole piece is built upon— at no point does it sound like any other Duke tune, and yet no one else could possibly have written it. And, in nearly 60 years, no other band has been remotely able to play it so well. —Daniel Okrent

“Black and Tan Fantasy” (1927) is musically superb and historically important as one of the first jazz compositions that qualifies as modernism— akin to School of Paris primitivism and advanced writing. The various growling brass sounds of Ellington’s Jungle Band (as it was billed) are as calculated an artistic construct as Brancusi’s carved African-esque sculptures or Picasso’s tribal-influenced paintings. Allusion projects meaning, as in Joyce and Eliot. The dirgelike number concludes with trumpeter and co-composer Bubber Miley quoting Chopin’s Funeral March, as befits the racial connotations of the title. “Tan” refers to light complexions, long deemed an advantage to African Americans, starting with candidates for the chorus line at the Cotton Club. A funeral march is apt if Ellington is grieving that the race issue— crippling color-consciousness and self-hatred among blacks, simple bigotry almost everywhere else— could prove the death of America. His fantasy proffers music as a healing, multicultural balm, comic relief included. Trombonist Tricky Sam Nanton’s raucous horse whinny at the end of his plaintive plunger solo points to the nag pulling the coffin and the fun in funeral, the wit and ebullience that’s invariably around the bend in Duke’s jungle. —Alfred Appel, Jr

Hidden in an often overlooked trio recording from 1961, Piano in the Foreground, is a moment— but only a moment— in which Ellington seems to be ruminating over his past and scanning the horizon of the music of the future. “Summertime” is the Ellington that Cecil Taylor heard, a pianist who could set sail over a threatening and indefinite pulse, and reprogram a beloved pop tune by expanding and diminishing melodic rhythm, letting intervals ring (like Monk) for their own sake, rattling the keys with deep tremolos, and ending with dense clusters and a fist in the bass. Like all the signal figures of jazz— especially Armstrong, Morton, Hawkins, and Parker— Ellington could unsettle fans’ and critics’ expectations by simultaneously embracing all existing styles and presaging those yet to come. And here, for those who were listening, he was redefining swing. —John F. Szwed

There may be no other recording by Ellington or anyone else that splashes so many colors, weaves so many fabrics, taps into so many strands of rhythm, and pulls it all off with such earthy swing and elegant blues as the 1966 Far East Suite. It also ranks— in the original RCA Living Stereo vinyl pressing (with the white dog on the black label) or on the Special Mix CD reissue— as one of the best-sounding Ellingtons, letting us fully grasp the tonal wonders at play. It should have been a more influential album than it was. Rock-jazz fusion would have been a lot more interesting had its pioneers taken their cues from “Blue Pepper.” Third Stream might have carved a dozen new tributaries from “Ad Lib on Nippon.” Astor Piazzolla seems less novel after revisiting the tango staccato of Duke’s solo on “Mount Harissa.” And, of course, there is sheer beauty. One could usefully divide the world into two kinds of people: those who swoon over Johnny Hodges’s solo on “Isfahan” and those who don’t— not just for his gorgeous tone but for his (literally) breathtaking pauses. It represents a peak for Ellington, his band, and jazz itself. — Fred Kaplan

Ellington’s patriotic pleasure (as opposed to, say, fervor) is nowhere more apparent than in his many works about the heroes and culture of those he called My People. When he writes about the American Negro, his music is consistently illuminated by a nostalgic melodicism, a knowing serenity. Neither anger, bitterness, nor alienation intrude. To trace the arc of those works, from “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” through Three Black Kings, is to glean the suggestion that no one was ever born more blessed than the black American; to partake is to share the certainty. If Jack Benny and Bing Crosby made all Americans a little Jewish and a little Irish, Ellington makes us all a little darker. Think of the marked loveliness of “Black Beauty,” the marching sass that parts the curtains on “Sepia Panorama,” the musing sweetness of the violin transition in “Black,” the incomparably noble hymn that is the payoff in Harlem. What all these melodies have in common is an introspective musicality that eschews lyrics and pop extrapolations. Like Gershwin, Ellington wrote tunes to sing, and others that can only be hummed. Think of “Echoes of Harlem,” “Black Butterfly,” “A Portrait of Bert Williams,” “Harlem Air Shaft,” “Conga Brava,” “Ko-Ko”— a world within his world and ours. —Gary Giddins

Choosing a favorite Ellington recording is like being asked to choose an all-time favorite meal— only grand epicureans like Duke himself (see Music Is My Mistress) can be that selective. I can’t single out recordings, or, for that matter, editions of the band, but I can easily select my favorite Ellingtonian. Recording exclusively with Ellington and members of the Ellington camp during his three-year career, bassist Jimmy Blanton seems to have been willed into being by Duke. Here’s a kid from Chattanooga who plays perfect bass from note one, entering the band just when two other geniuses, Billy Strayhorn and Ben Webster, come onboard. Blanton swoops in just long enough to lift the band to a dazzling new peak and, in the process, revolutionizes the role of his instrument; then, his mission accomplished, vanishes as abruptly as he appeared, as if Jimmy Blanton were but a dream of Duke’s that we all get to share. —Steve Futterman

My lifelong passion for Ellington began— or rather exploded— in 1938, when I heard his just-released “New Black and Tan Fantasy” on a Boston radio station. A few years before, like millions of teenagers, I had been thrust into the jazz life after hearing the Benny Goodman band on Camel Caravan, but the Duke’s eerie, mysterioso minor blues left Benny far behind. Barney Bigard unloosed his woody New Orleans clarinet’s seamless upward glissando, backed by Duke’s mounting chord slashes, while Tricky Sam Nanton’s lewd plunger was slopping it up to reach an almost unbearable intensity, only to be topped by Cootie Williams at his most fearsome, goaded by the full band’s jubilant shouts. I shared Charles Mingus’s first response upon hearing an Ellington Cotton Club broadcast: “I screamed.” Immediately I ran to the local record shop: “What have you got by Duke Ellington! Where is it! Give me all of it!” Sixty years later, I’m still saying it. —Grover Sale

Duke Ellington wrote “The Art is in the Cooking,” and his 1963 recording Afro Bossa is a marvelous confirmation of his modus operandi. Like a master chef, he started with his main ingredient, the big band; added danceable dashes of African, Caribbean, and Latin rhythmic tinges and textures and created one of his most succulent and swinging musical dishes. The title cut is a “gutbucket bolero” driven by the rhythm section’s Ravelian riffs, while “Moonbow” and “Bongu/Empty Town Blues” are Afro-anthemic, movable melodic feasts. On the Spanish tinge tip, “Purple Gazelle” is a “ragtime-cha-cha” with Cootie Williams’s and Ray Nance’s clarion trumpet flights. Nance’s gypsy violin shines through the habanera-hazed “Siempre Amore,” and “Volupte” and “Tigress” are similarly syncopated— the latter, with the Afro-Iberian warmth of Paul Gonsalves’s tenor sax. “Angu,” a so-called blue tango, is illuminated by Billy Strayhorn’s haunting, crystalline mandolinlike piano chords. “Absinthe” is a Hitchcockian, cinematic slow drag, directed by Ellington’s piano, while “The Eighth Veil” sounds like the theme to a hip ’60s TV show and “Pyramid,” the 1937 classic from trombonist Juan Tizol, is updated with a more pronounced Middle Eastern flavor. Simply put, Afro Bossa justifies Duke Ellington’s moniker as the World’s Greatest Listener, and one hell of a cook. —Eugene Holley Jr.

When I first heard it on the car radio, I nearly crashed. When I excitedly bought the CD, I somehow lost the liner notes before I got home. The track that displaced me was “Les Fleurs Africaines,” from the 1962 session Money Jungle, an almost absurd meeting of the egos— Ellington, Mingus, Roach. James Newton and David Murray made admirable covers of it, Miles Davis objected to it (“How am I supposed to rate that?” he growled in response to a Down Beat blindfold test for the album), but no one has ever been able to recapture the uncanny original 3:33, in which Max’s cool, inchoate rumblings glide beneath the Duke’s Zen intervals and Mingus’s steady yet loose pluckings. I was playing in an ensemble at the time, naively eager to persuade a robotic bassist to somehow cathect Mingus’s mysterious trills on the main motif and emulate the hypnotic, peripatetic wanderings that are both away from and in response to Duke’s refrain. Of course, it would have been daunting even for a virtuoso to come anywhere near the fiery pastorale, the flowering of “Les Fleurs Africaines.” To borrow a phrase from the former Mingus sideman Eric Dolphy, “You can never capture it again.” —David Yaffe

Knowing the emotional etymology of almost every sound a man could make and what those sounds said about the men who made them, Ellington built into some of his best works (and, of course, into the orchestra that cocreated them) a special sort of musical self-awareness. “The Sergeant Was Shy,” from June 1939, is lovely that way, a kind of glorious, golden jest about how many ways there might be to feel about bits and pieces of “Bugle Call Rag”— marchingly mysterioso, Frenchified tangoish, parade-ground earnest, and “Here comes the band!”­gleeful (all in the first 16 bars alone). And yes, this two-minute, 36-second kaleidoscope of moods is about being such a kaleidoscope, about the ways we inevitably place ourselves by the way we sound. In fact, I think that among the most central points of celebration that Ellington ever allowed himself is the blaze-of-sunlight break with which the trumpet section begins chorus eight, after which the master chastens their sassiness with the finger-wagging of Tricky Sam Nanton (this leads to fierce dissonance) and then asks Harry Carney to smack his basso seal of sobriety on a seriocomic masterpiece. —Larry Kart

Ellington’s compositions not only fueled his own orchestra but provided musical sustenance for virtually every band or singer in the jazz-pop spectrum. Yet one facet of Ellington’s recorded output remains largely unexplored by international reissue programs: his cover albums of what Roland Kirk used to call “other folks’ music.” These range from a double-length gathering of key songs associated with other swing-era bands (reissued as Recollections of the Big Band Era), a romantic, Strayhornized suite of French chansons (Midnight in Paris, which introduced “Guitar Amour”), and delightfully Dukish treatments of show and film scores (All American and Mary Poppins). While the idea of Ellington stooping to conquer hits by the Beatles, Acker Bilk, Bob Dylan, Tijuana Brass, and Manos Hadjidakis may rankle those same purists who were always denouncing the band’s vocalists, there’s great music on these albums: Lawrence Brown transforming “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” into a plaintive moan, Paul Gonsalves wailing “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” Wild Bill Davis and Johnny Hodges exploring the sensual side of “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” (on the superrare 1969 Reader’s Digest sessions). And you oughta hear what Cootie Williams, Hodges, and Gonsalves do with “Danke Schoen” on Ellington ’65. Wayne Newton it ain’t. —Will Friedwald

Most of Ellington’s musical gems are 12-measure blues formulations, a matrix he never tired of; for example, “The Mooch,” “Creole Love Call,” and “Transblucency.” Yet for “The Blues,” the only sung section in Black, Brown and Beige, he follows his mentor “Dad” (Will Marion) Cook’s proscription, “First you find the logical way, and when you find it, avoid it, and let your inner self break through and guide you.” The almost atonal introduction, harmonic progressions, bar structure, and melodic contour of “The Blues” are a jazz world away from the standard blues. Only when the singer finishes the first chorus of the song and steps back to listen, do Ellington’s trombones wail a demonstration chorus of the 12-bar blues, a chorus that he later recycled and developed into the “Carnegie Hall Blues.” A haunting interlude for tenor sax leads us back to the song. Its final lick quotes the theme from “Work Song.” Ellington’s “The Blues” is a masterpiece about the blues. By the way, it was Cook who predicted, “There would one day come a Black Beethoven, burned to the bone by the African Sun.” —Maurice Peress

I was a high school student in Chicago in 1943. One winter night in a freezing rain I went to Orchestra Hall to try to get into the sold-out Duke Ellington concert. In the confusion and chaos of the lobby, using a technique of backward walking and temporary invisibility, I got inside. It turned out there were a few empty seats, and as the lights went down I found quite a good one. It was the first time I had seen Ellington, and despite the war and the draft, the personnel of the 1938 band was still largely intact. That night I saw Ben Webster, Johnny Hodges, Ray Nance, et al., and I remember them playing “Take the A Train,” “Passion Flower,” “Cottontail,” “Main Stem,” “Perdido,” and maybe “Chelsea Bridge.” I can’t find the program from that night, but I remember in the second set part of Black, Brown and Beige was played, the section called “Come Sunday.” I was enthralled and thought I was listening to the most beautiful, the most moving music I’d ever heard. It has stayed in my mind for years. My son Christopher used it at his wedding and I think I’ve told enough people that I want it played at my funeral. —Robert Andrew Parker

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