Duke Ellington – Blues in Orbit

There's a tendency to think of the Blues as an easy genre for amateur guitarists and old black singers with lotsa heartbreak, an all-too-familiar vernacular riddled with cliches and guitar faces.

But jazz did manage to do something amazing with the blues, with swing and the blues together. And it was The Duke who turned the blues into a truly sophisticated art form beyond three chords — into a complex, composed and supremely flexible art form. First he made an ensemble of distinct voices, and then scored them with adventurous elaborations of the blues mood. There’s not a single three-chord progression on this album; just superlative little pockets of blues in and around three minutes in length. Moody chords and warm solos. Hodges in fine, clear form. Nance, Carney, Strayhorn, all in compact/expansive jazz miniatures. Laid-back, lively and amazingly free with the genre, really putting the format out there, composing by tonal band colours with a supreme understanding and mastery and brevity. Not a cliché to be found.


Duke Ellington — Blues in Orbit. 1958, Columbia.

Author: Rino Breebaart

Editor.

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