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Paperback Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington Book

ISBN: 0306806142

ISBN13: 9780306806148

Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

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Book Overview

One of the twentieth century's greatest composers, Duke Ellington (1899-1974) led a fascinating life. Beyond Category, the first biography to draw on the vast Duke Ellington archives at the Smithsonian Institution, recounts his remarkable career: his childhood in Washington, D.C., and his musical apprenticeship in Harlem; his long engagement at the Cotton Club; the challenging years of the depression; his tours to Europe and into America's deep South,...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Not Merely A Genius Of Jazz...But Rather A Musical Genius!!!

His music has resonated all around us for nearly a century. We almost unconsciously react to the melodic rhythms of his brilliant compositions as we watch television or listen to the radio. Often the arrangements are backdrops to our daily lives...soothing our mood or stimulating us to tap our feet or simply sway to its almost spiritual cadences. Such is the music of the Great Duke Ellington. In "Beyond Category" we find an outstanding biography of arguably the greatest composer the world has ever known. From his early days as an aspiring composer/bandleader in Washington, D.C.; through his New York days at the Cotton Club; and onto his unprecedented tours of Europe, Africa and the Far East, this book takes you on a delightful journey into the creative mindset and personality genius of Ellington. Unlike many writings of this nature, Hasse manages to avoid sentimental veneration in conveying many of Ellington's talents in regards to people, business dealings, and his relationship with women. The book is a well-written, enjoyable composition that draws the reader into Ellington's world. Additionally, the author grants appropriate respect to the musicians, artists and businessmen who aided Ellington throughout his career, thus balancing the text superbly. I highly recommend "Beyond Category", not only for the Ellington fan or even a Jazz fan, but for anyone interested in the life and times of a musical genius and an icon of American history.

Top Ellington biography of the 3 I've read so far

Beyond Category is the best introduction to Duke Ellington's life and music. It was created to coincide with a Smithsonian exhibit and it offers a quality professional biography of Ellington's life and times. The author considers Ellington's life a series of problems to solve for his mind. Some of these problems are how to learn piano, how to start a band, how to compose with a partner, how to react to the recording band, how to deal with the loss of key soloists, how to compose larger works and ends up hitting many of the high points of Ellington's life and works. Most of the new research at the time came from Mercer Ellington's enormous donation of his warehouse of materials for the Duke Ellington collectionl. Yet as a book intended for a popular audience, the musical content of this trove was not really fully dealt with. Mercer's collection comes through in the fabulous photographs that are interspersed throughout the book. It may have been better to have all the photographs grouped in several sections as not everyone will have time to read the entire book I suppose. One very helpful aspect to the book was that at the end of each chapter there was a guide to key recordings of Ellington's life. This type of material is very helpful to those new to Ellington's life. I found the prose to be clear and adequate although not as lively as some of the other excellent jazz biographies I've read such as Chambers' Milestones.This book gets a 4.5 star rating for anyone new to Ellington. It's accessible, readable, and gives you several ideas to approach the true gold mine of Ellington's music.For jazz researchers and scholars, there's still room for a knockout biography of Ellington that adds the information from the Smithsonian collection to wide ranging interviews and even better prose. Researchers will want to read this, but I'm not sure how much of this material is groundbreaking. 4.5 stars for neophytes3.5 stars for Ellington scholars4 stars overall

Better late than never

No sentimentality here. Just warm, rich story telling of a great man. I'm actually embarrassed to say that after lifetime of jazz I just dicovered The Duke. This is a very well written and balanced portrayal of a man,his music and his times. If there's more to say I don't want to read it; it's time to listen.

excellently researched book

As an old time lover of Jazz, but rather new to really examining the lives behind its great musicians, and particularly Duke Ellington, I started out with "Duke Ellington: A Spiritual Biography" by Janna Tull Steed (great book (and just 192 pages) for anyone new to the Duke & jazz). It was Steed's book that really built the interest to explore Ellington in more depth and, Hasse's book is just what I was looking for. It is a hefty book but it is absolutely and completely accessible, just what is required to approach this great man of Jazz.

A compeling portrait of one of America's greatest composers

This is a thoroughly enjoyable story of the life and times of one of America's greatest and most prolific composer/musicians. It characterises the "Duke" as a caring, people loving person with close family ties, and a quest for excellence against all odds. The Forward by Wynton Marsalis is clear and insightful. The author has accomplished an easy to follow sequence of events enhanced by photos and drawings. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the genre.
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