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Reminiscing In Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ellington Paperback – October 19, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Northeastern (October 19, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155553466X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555534660
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,607,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nicholsons lively, unconventional biography of the great jazz composer, bandleader and pianist amounts to a kind of jazz collage. Keeping third-person historical narrative to a minimum, Nicholson (Billie Holiday) presents Ellingtons life through block quotes, arranging bits and pieces of some 70 years worth of painstakingly gathered interviews, Variety articles, press releases, handbills and even declassified FBI files into a composite narrative of the Dukes life. Among the notables whose words turn up are longtime Ellington collaborator Billy Strayhorn, show business impresario Irving Mills, saxophone great Johnny Hodges, New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell and, of course, Ellington himself. These accounts give a remarkably coherent picture: the Duke was widely beloved and clearly driven, a musician whose energy, appetites and inventiveness remain startling a quarter century after his death. Rich in personal anecdote and period detail, Nicholsons book charts Edward Kennedy Ellingtons childhood among Washington, D.C.s African-American middle class, his rise to fame in the storied speakeasies of Depression-era Harlem and his lifelong devotion to his crafta commitment that remained firm even as swing, and then rock n roll, threatened his cultural prominence. Nicholsons prodigious (and well-footnoted) archival research and his thoughtful orchestration of source material, let him combine accessibility with scholarly authority. The books title comes from a 1934 number Ellington penned to mourn the death of his mother; it sums up the sweetly nostalgic mood that this richly detailed biography creates. Illustrations.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Deftly weaving numerous and varied quotations from Ellington and his family, friends, and fellow musicians with an ongoing narrative, Nicholson, biographer of Ella Fitzgerald (LJ 5/1/94) and Billie Holiday (LJ 9/1/95), successfully brings a humanness and warmth to Americas finest composer, musician, and bandleader in this centennial year of his birth. Delving into a wide assortment of archival materials from the Smithsonian Institution and Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, Nicholson covers Ellingtons life from the early 1920s to his glorious period of dominance (mid1930s to 1944) and continuing through his death in 1974. Nicholsons selected quotes, constituting the bulk of the book, occasionally seem oddly juxtaposed, but generally this is a free-flowing portrait. The enormous amount of credited source material suggests potential for further scholarly insight into Ellingtons life. This book is a strong addition to other recent works on Ellington, including John Hasses Beyond Category (LJ 9/15/93) and Mark Tuckers The Duke Ellington Reader (LJ 9/1/93).William Kenz, Moorhead State Univ. Lib., MN
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ian Muldoon on January 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are a handful of books about jazz which provide musical insights and feelings and opinions which pull the reader into the lives of those who do the job of making music - still probably the best is HEAR ME TALKIN' TO YA edited by Shapiro and Hentoff along with Stuart Nicholson author of A PORTRAIT OF DUKE ELLINGTON Reminiscing in TEMPO. Another is STRAIGHT LIFE, the story of ART PEPPER. This is not to deny the brilliance of FOUR LIVES IN THE BEBOP BUSINESS or MR JELLY LORD, but it is hard to match the excitement of reading the words of those who made the music, judiciously edited of course. A PORTRAIT OF DUKE ELLINGTON is up there with the best books I've read on jazz. Its added value is that its subject is one of the most important musicians of the 20th century. Its fascination is how his creative juices were pushed by the imperatives of the time - deadlines were something the Duke apparently thrived on. On the other hand, pigeonholing may have held him back from becoming an even greater composer. Some of the great scenes in the book include one recounted by Sonny Greer on a performance in England when the band preceding them on the programme suddenly stopped in the middle of its performance to play God Save the King - The Prince of Wales (nicknamed the Prince of Wails by Fats Waler I believe) had entered the auditorium. But this was nothing to the reception that the Ellington band received when it performed. They were not used to ten minute standing ovations. There's no getting past the fact that Europeans, or music lovers outside the States, seem to have taken "jazz" or "modern improvised music" much more seriously than the place of its birth. This may still be the case today.Read more ›
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jimi Fallows on December 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is an extremely readable work. The author has compiled extracts from interviews with Ellington, band members and family spanning his life and career, presenting the material as an oral history. The reader is given a strong insight into how Ellington worked and what made him such a great and unique composer, band leader and human being. I found this book to be extremely involving, often moving me to laughter or tears. I would only complain that the writer has perhaps done too good a job editorially with his material in that he could have risked boring us a little by including much more. The upside of this is that the book should be enjoyable to anyone who has even the remotest interest in the man, the music or the period of his life. This book is an extremely fitting testament to a man who is without doubt one of the foremost figures in 20th Century culture .
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