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DUKE ELLINGTON’S AMERICA at New Day Jazz with Justin Desmangles

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Justin Desmangles, host —
New Day Jazz

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Show description for Sunday, July 18, 2010,
3:00 pm – 5:00 pm PDT

This afternoon, on the four o’clock hour, we are joined by Harvey G. Cohen, author of the recently published, Duke Ellington’s America.As part of our focus, this afternoon, on Ellington, we will revisit many of the earliest small group recordings lead by various members of the orchestra, including Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard and Rex Stewart. Also included in this afternoons broadcast will be selections from the Ellington-Strayhorn oeuvre, such as “Day Dream,” “Johnny Come Lately” and “After All.”

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Two collaborating master pianist-composers perform “Johnny Come Lately”

Along the way we will listen in on many poems written contemporaneous with the Ellington era, including works by Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Arna Bontemps, Margaret Walker and Gwendolyn Brooks.

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Justin Desmangles
Jazz music for lovers and the lonely.

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Press release from the University of Chicago Press

Harvey G. Cohen
Duke Ellington’s America
720 pages, 12 halftones  6 x 9  © 2010
Cloth $40.00
ISBN: 9780226112633   Published May 2010
E-book from $5.00 to $40.00 (about e-books)
ISBN: 9780226112657

Few American artists in any medium have enjoyed the international and lasting cultural impact of Duke Ellington. From jazz standards such as “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” to his longer, more orchestral suites, to his leadership of the stellar big band he toured and performed with for decades after most big bands folded, Ellington represented a singular, pathbreaking force in music over the course of a half-century. At the same time, as one of the most prominent black public figures in history, Ellington demonstrated leadership on questions of civil rights, equality, and America’s role in the world.

With Duke Ellington’s America, Harvey G. Cohen paints a vivid picture of Ellington’s life and times, taking him from his youth in the black middle class enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of worldwide acclaim. Mining extensive archives, many never before available, plus new interviews with Ellington’s friends, family, band members, and business associates, Cohen illuminates his constantly evolving approach to composition, performance, and the music business—as well as issues of race, equality and religion. Ellington’s own voice, meanwhile, animates the book throughout, giving Duke Ellington’s America an intimacy and immediacy unmatched by any previous account.

By far the most thorough and nuanced portrait yet of this towering figure, Duke Ellington’s America highlights Ellington’s importance as a figure in American history as well as in American music.

Read an excerpt

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CULTURE’S AMBASSADOR
By Peter Keepnews
Published: May 27, 2010
©2010 The New York Times

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Duke 1963 © John Pratt/Keystone Features — Getty Images

Duke Ellington in 1963

DUKE ELLINGTON’S AMERICA
By Harvey G. Cohen
Illustrated. 688 pp. The University of Chicago Press. $40

The idea of a substantial book about a major musical figure that pays relatively little attention to his music might seem counterintuitive — or, to put it less politely, pointless. That “Duke Ellington’s America” succeeds as well as it does is a tribute both to its author and to its subject.

Arguing that Duke Ellington’s “significance went far beyond the musical realm,” Harvey G. Cohen, a cultural historian who teaches at King’s College London, places Ellington’s life as a public figure and “culture hero” in a larger social and political context. Others have written about his connection to the civil rights movement, or the many State Department tours on which he and his remarkable band functioned as cultural ambassadors during the cold war. Cohen makes such matters his primary concern.

To read the rest, go to the New York Times Book Review original

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