Tomorrow night in Boston's Symphony Hall, Duke Ellington will repeat his historic Carnegie Hall concert of last Saturday. From all reports, this concert is easily the most important yet, not only for jazz alone, but for American music in general.
Jazz, the real jazz, is the acknowledged American muric, but those who have tried to force it into classical forms have been blatantly unsuccessful. The only composers to get anywhere expanding jazz for the concert stage have worked upward from it, not downward to it from classical music.
If anyone is ever successful, Ellington will be the man. There is no man living who can touch his combined genius for melody, orchestration, and conducting, in any realm of music. With the greatest jazz band in the world, with some of the best living soloists. Ellington has a superb medium for his ideas.
He has tried to rise above jazz with "Creole Rhapsody" and "Reminiscing in Tempo," but these were unsatisfactory. In the past ten years, however, Duke has made tremendous advances, and shows no sign of stopping. The main feature of the concert is an ambitious, three-part "Tone Parallel" called "Black, Brown, and Beige," which lasts forty-five minutes.
George Frazier, famous jazz critic, now working for Life, writes from New York that the band seemed self-conscious in most of the numbers. "Black, Brown, and Beige" although disorganized, had some very lovely parts. He thinks it is a proof of the fact that Ellington is eventually going to do something incredibly exciting. Ben Webster played beautifully, as did all others, but Johnny Hodges' solo on "Day Dreams" got the most applause. Duke played "Blue Belles of Harlem" almost as a piano solo and he played better than ever before. A girl named Roche now sings with the band, very much like Billic Holiday, but clearer and more in tune.
Frazier added that the concert was a complete sell-out, and had been for a fortnight, but that this was a tribute more to Russian Relief than to Duke. It may be the case again up here, though the benefit is for the USO this time, but anyone who goes to hear the music will not have any regrets.