Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington got its first newspaper review in Sunday’s Buffalo News, a smart, knowledgeable rave by Jeff Simon, an experienced jazz buff (he’s been around long enough to have reviewed the Ellington band three times in concert) who understands exactly what I was trying to do and is qualified to say whether or not I did it.
Teachout’s book is as far as can be from hagiography. You can’t go as far as to call it a “revisionist” biography, but Teachout is, by night, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and there is scarcely a page of “Duke” that isn’t marked by the utmost in critical lucidity and detachment. That is, I think, so much the case that it is virtually impossible to find a word or even a comma or semicolon in “Duke” that comes from the unmistakable fandom that, for good or for ill, has always functioned as ground zero for jazz criticism….The result, I think, of giving no quarter to fandom of any sort, may be the definitive Ellington biography thus far.
Read the whole thing here.