April 29, 2007

On the Duke's birthday

From the Wikipedia entry:

A man of suave demeanor and puckish wit that masked occasional brusqueness, Ellington preferred to call his style and sound "American music" rather than just jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category," including and especially many of the musicians who served with his orchestra.

Ellington was one of the twentieth century's best-known African-American celebrities. He recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films. Ellington and his orchestra toured the United States and Europe regularly before and after World War II.

Duke Ellington also appeared in a few television commercials. According to the YouTube description, this first one was filmed in Sydney, Australia, and it is for Craven Filter cigarettes (yucky).

A sure sign of evil among us?

It captures the Duke Ellington band in a "relaxed" mood during their 1970 tour. And they all do appear to be craven cigarettes, so there was truth in advertising. This footage is fabulous (downright historic), and the Duke's comb over never looked more elaborate:

Picture from the Zenith Circle of Sound page

Here is another one from 1970, and it is one Ellington did for the Zenith "Dual Dimension Circle of Sound." I love how effusive and bubbly he seems at the beginning when he says that "music is my life...love it madly" line. And according to the Duke, the Circle of Sound technology was a "new stereo thing." Isn't that all you need to know? I think so.

It seems odd to me he did stuff like this, but I guess legends can't live off of their fame alone:


J. Herzog said...

There's an anecdote in Frank Zappa's autobiography where he claims that witnessing Duke Ellington ask for some pittance at a festival they both played was so depressing that he decided then and there to break up the original Mothers.

Sometimes being a genius just doesn't pay the bills.

Chris said...

Interesting Zappa anecdote, j. Zappa was a musician's musician (was he not?), so I can see him doing this in reaction to Ellington's circumstances.