Genius – Celebrating One of America’s Creative Icons"Jazz," a documentary by award winning filmmaker Ken Burns, has a segment in Episode 5 that epitomizes my love for music, as well as the American created art form, Jazz. It lasts approximately a minute or so, and quite frankly is the most beautiful piano solo I have ever heard. There are two parts: one of them is played over Wynton Marsalis' voiceover and the other is part of a live taping of Duke Ellington being interviewed by Edward Murrow. Sir Duke laments that the short solo is not music but mere dreaming.

My first time watching this particular portion of the documentary left me awestruck. It depicts Duke Ellington in the 1940s, as well as an editorial cut in of him playing in a live television studio while being interviewed by Edward Murrow. Prior to the interview, the documentary shows still photographs of Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington while the current day impresario, Wynton Marsalis, is speaking.

Wynton's assessment of the Big Band Swing era provides a vivid inside look into the psyche of the typical African American jazz musician during that time. Mr. Marsalis goes on to comment that jazz musicians are oftentimes very enamored with one or more of their peers and that is the reason why many artists wanted to play and imitate someone's style, like Duke Ellington. While the footage of still photographs of Goodman and Ellington rolls, he goes on to say that "record company jazz critics named Benny Goodman, "The King of Swing," as a marketing ploy by record companies, while most if not all jazz musicians of that era revered Duke Ellington for his composing, mastering of the piano, conducting, and elevating the genre."

Duke Ellington wrote over 10,000 musical compositions and was the vanguard to the "Big Band" era, Jazz, and Swing music. Born in Washington, D.C. in 1899, he was given the nickname "Duke" for his gentlemanly ways at the age of seven. At the age of 15, he was performing professionally and wrote his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag," while working as a soda fountain jerk.

I realize as I began this blog that I am unable to give the just due to Duke Ellington that he deserves but I am aware he was and remains one of those American icons who was simply a genius in every sense of the word. "Sophisticated Ladies," "Mood Indigo," "Take The A Train," and "It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" are just a few of the hit recordings that Duke Ellington wrote over the course of more than 50 years. His musical influence remains intact and is manifested by the sounds of artists like Herbie Hancock, Thelonious Monk, McCoy Tyner, Art Tatum, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, Brian Culberston, Alex Bugnon, and many more. Duke Ellington's influence is found in all of their styles and compositions. During the late 1920s and 1930s he was the musical director and band leader at Harlem's famous Cotton Club.

I realize I made a mistake when I decided to write a blog about Duke Ellington. Frankly he is too big of an icon for a mere blog post. I suppose by trying to write a blog I have not failed but only tried to honor someone who already stands alone in American history. I am reminded of a quote by Marcus Garvey that epitomizes the aspirations and accomplishments of Duke Ellington:

"GOD and Nature first made us what we are, and then out of our own created genius we make ourselves what we want to be. Follow always that great law. Let the sky and GOD be our limit and Eternity our measurement."

Joe Thompson, CareOne Customer Blogger and Debt Management Plan GraduateJoe Thompson

Joe Thompson has been a Debt Management Plan (DMP) customer with CareOne Debt Relief Services since September 2008 and recently graduated to become debt-free!! Joe Thompson is active in many non-profit areas including; acting as Site Director for I.S. 8 NIKE Youth Basketball and has served as a mentor to many young inner city youths. As a hobby, Joe is a high school and college basketball referee in the New Jersey tri state area. Having officially completed the Debt Management Plan, Joe Thompson is excited to share what his experience on the DMP was like as well as what made his experience a successful one. Look for more posts under the My Journey out of Debt blog. Compensated CareOne Debt Relief Services Blogger.

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