THE DUKE AND THE COUNT

Contrary to what the above title may suggest, this post is not a narrative of two nabobs of European nobility in medieval times. Rather, it’s about two giants of jazz royalty in Big Band-era America: one whose birthday, and the other whose expiration day, occurred last week. I refer to Duke Ellington (born 4/29/1899) and Count Basie (died 4/26/1984).

If you’re of a certain age, no doubt you’ve heard of them, but unless you’re a pre-rock jazz buff, that’s probably the extent of it. Permit me, then, to introduce you to these musical titans of yesteryear, and to a sampling of their legacy.  After all, it’s not every day that you get to meet a Duke and a Count.

I could get carried away with all there is to say about the former, but in the interest of not getting carried away, I will confine my remarks mainly to this quote:

Ellington has often credited his sidemen with the success of his band. But those who knew Duke and his music best — and this includes those very sidemen — will invariably tell you that what set Ellington’s apart is just one thing: the brilliant conductor-composer-arranger-pianist-bon vivant and leader of men, Duke Ellington himself. –George Simon (from his book, THE BIG BANDS)

Here are two of the Duke’s many compositions, the first from the 1930 film CHECK AND DOUBLE CHECK, and the second from a European tour decades later:

Let us now turn to that other distinguished composer-pianist-band leader, Count Basie, whose talents weren’t as multifaceted as the Duke, but whose orchestra likewise outlasted the end of the Big Band era. Quoting George Simon one more time:

For several years [after] the days of the big bands, Basie didn’t do well, and he was forced to cut down his group to a sextet. But then he made a comeback and, aided greatly by support from Frank Sinatra, who helped him get lucrative bookings in Las Vegas and appeared with him in a series of successful concerts, the Basie band [again] rode high. 

 Let’s jump to a conclusion with this swinging rendition (especially the last seventy seconds) of Basie’s own composition and theme song:

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20 comments on “THE DUKE AND THE COUNT

  1. calmkate says:

    wow wow wow … two royal heroes of mine, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GP Cox says:

    They help represent an era of outstanding music!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. arekhill1 says:

    Had quite the jazz collection myself in my misspent youth, Sr. Muse, because it was my favorite music to listen to when I was completely baked on hashish. Nowadays not so much, but with cannabis legal here in CA, who knows? I may rebuild it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      I have so many records in my collection that I’m beginning to think I overdid it, Ricardo, so my advice (if you “rebuild”) is Don’t get carried away, or when they carry you away, you’ll leave your heirs to decide the collection’s fate (which will probably be the trash bin).

      Like

  4. Carmen says:

    Just lovely tunes!! You have exquisite taste in music! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Don Frankel says:

    I’m pretty sure everyone whether they realize it or not everyone is very familiar with the music these men created, even if they don’t realize where it comes from. That’s how ingrained in our culture it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mistermuse says:

    I hope you’re right, Don. We all need to know where we came from, if for no other reason than to realize that everything is built on a foundation of what was there before us.

    Like

  7. milliethom says:

    I’m certainly of ‘a certain age’ (meaning getting a bit long in the tooth) Mr M, and had certainly heard of these two musicians and some of their pieces. But I hadn’t realised just how talented they both were, so it was interesting to find out a little more about them here. Great choice of videos.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mistermuse says:

      Thank you, Millie. I think you can tell how much Duke Ellington loved his craft by the title of his autobiography: MUSIC IS MY MISTRESS. Count Basie’s autobio, on the other hand, bore the title of one of his hit records:

      Like

  8. ComputerBook says:

    ! I think you can tell how much Duke Ellington loved his craft by the title of his autobiography: MUSIC IS MY MISTRESS.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. geo. raymond says:

    In ’83 Count Basie did a show at my school & I didn’t go. That is something I will just have to live with.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. 2 giants! continue…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. MG WELLS says:

    Love the DUKE and your blog. Something for everyone. Enjoy and best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. mistermuse says:

    Thanks, and all good wishes to you as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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