Friday, April 29, 2011

Here's to the Duke...

I'm sitting here on one of those spring mornings that makes your eyes ache with its beauty, listening, appropriately, to "In A Sentimental Mood," and wishing a happy birthday to Edward "Duke" Ellington.

He earned his nickname, it is said, because his mother taught him to be mannerly. As Garrison Keillor has written, "(It) came from his dapper demeanor and easy grace."

Ellington was my first serious exposure to jazz, a perfect starting point for what has proven to be a life-long love affair. I'll never forget the feeling of rapture after listening to the Newport '56 album -- particularly Johnny Hodges' solo -- and thinking, "oh, yes, this is music."

I went nuts over the "Anatomy of a Murder" soundtrack -- perfect for Otto Preminger's motion picture. I played it over and over one summer, remembering Lee Remick's sultry sexuality and Jimmy Stewart's quirky charm.

So today is Duke's day, and here's to him, "Mood Indigo" and all that marvelous music, a Schubert tune with a Gershwin touch, "Prelude to a Kiss."

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