“Certainty is as it were a tone of voice in which one declares how things are . . .”Recent reads: two interviews with Terry Teachout, author of a controversial new Ellington biography. I’m about halfway through that book myself, and so far I’m not loving it, although of course the subject is interesting to me—not only because Ellington is a personal hero of mine (he’s the guy who got me interested in jazz in the first place), but also because he is a recurring theme in my own book, Decomposition (to be published later this year).
Some Ellington buffs hate my book. I have ample reason to know that. And I think the reason why some of them hate it is because — whether they fully understand this or not — they don't believe that he's a great enough man to stand up to an honest discussion of what he was like, both as a man and as an artist.
Some people think that in order to take Duke Ellington seriously as a composer, we have to believe that he was successful as a composer of large-scale works. The idea, I guess, is to push him up into the classical-music arena: he played in Carnegie Hall, therefore he's serious. And that's completely wrong. Duke Ellington is serious because he is Duke Ellington. [. . .] Jazz is a completely successful form of expression in and of itself, the same way the mystery novel is.
musical partnership consisted of discussion, an exchange of musical ideas, and a quest for solutions to compositional problems, but not necessarily to joint compositions.
Can you even say what an idea is? Is it a bunch of nerve impulses? Something more? Is it divine inspiration? Aliens?