The veteran British jazz journalist Steve Voce, who goes back a long way with Duke Ellington, has reviewed Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington for the November issue of Jazz Journal. Here’s part of what he said:
There have been more books written about Duke Ellington than about almost any other jazz figure. As the author points out, Ellington was famous long before the Swing Era and long after the big bands had faded away. Duke could claim to have been, if not the major figure, one of the two major figures in the music (interestingly, Teachout has already written a similarly thorough biography of the other).
Although, as Juan Tizol points out in this one, the Duke was a poor reader, he was a minor genius and a most interesting man, so there is room for this latest in the series of accounts of his life. Mr Teachout’s is probably the most absorbing of them all. His research has been thorough and he has assiduously followed up every anecdote and incident with the result that his book is very satisfying to read and full of tested fact about the maestro. Yet, despite the welter of detail, the writing style is so good that this is a memorable experience, as well as being probably the definitive biography. You don’t need another one, because everything is here and delivered with style and accuracy…
The author doesn’t pull any punches on Duke’s behalf, and easily penetrates the facade that Ellington presented to the world. Although he would have been pleased with the thoroughness of the profile, I don’t think Duke would have appreciated its frankness…
It seems to me that there can be little more about Duke Ellington to uncover and that Teachout’s book, as in the case of his earlier one on Armstrong, is the masterwork.
Coming from an Ellington authority like Voce…well, that’s quite something.
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Duke Ellington plays “It Don’t Mean a Thing” in 1943. The singer-violinist is Ray Nance: