Monday, November 23, 2020


The Smell of Bullshit

Richard O. Boyer, "The Hot Bach," in Mark Tucker, ed., The Duke Ellington Reader (1993; rpt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 214-245 (at 236):
Ellington is also surprised at critics who claim in columns of rococo prose that jazz is the American equivalent of the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome. A few weeks ago such a critique was read to Duke, a tall, broad, coffee-colored man of forty-five, as he lolled on a cot in his dressing room at the Hurricane, a Broadway night club in which he and his band were playing an engagement. The author maintained that when New York is but a memory, or at best a forest of rusty steel ascending to a quiet sky, the perceptive archeologist will be able to recreate American civilization if he is fortunate enough to find one Ellington record amid the deserted ruins. In the record's pulsing rhythms, the article said, he will hear the throb of long-stilled traffic, see the flash of neon signs, get some suggestion of the subway, and will understand, when a solo soars above the theme and then sinks back again, how the individual of the vanished past yearned for the stars but was limited to a banal earth. Duke listened impatiently. When the final sentence had been read, he said, "I don't know. May be something to it. But it seems to me such talk stinks up the place."

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