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Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts (1998)
Starring: Duke Ellington
Category: Music, Special Interest
Studio: Image Ent.
79 mins



A musical event recorded in Lugano Cathedral in honor of the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington's birth.

Duke Ellington's instrument was his orchestra, a unique tonal palette, thanks to the presence of soloists with strongly individual voices like the saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, the trombonist Lawrence Brown and trumpeters Cootie Williams and Cat Anderson.Ellington decided to use his orchestra for works that went beyond the formal environment and structure of the traditional jazz compositon.Black, Brown & Beige took shape in this way, the first of almost fifty suites written during the successive thirty years.Among this body of work, which can certainly be included in the most important music of this century, a special space is occupied by his religious music.Between 1965 and 1973, Ellington wrote three Sacred Concerts.Apart from his popular reputation as a bon vivant, Ellington was a deeply religious man."Now I can say openly what I have been saying to myself on my knees," he said when he accepted the invitation to present his music at an event celebrating the consecration of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco in 1965.

The congress of Baptist ministers in Washington condemned the occasion, scandalized by the figure of Ellington as a man linked to music played in nightclubs.Ellington replied that he thought of himself as a messenger boy taking messages to people, wherever those people might be.He also observed that had he been a humble dishwasher in the most disreputable nightclub, he still would have felt certain of his right to enter the church, concluding by wryly asking if God still welcomed sinners.