Last evening’s concert by Wynton Marsalis and his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra was entitled Music of the Masters: Duke Ellington and George Gershwin. Marsalis and his band delivered a fulfilling, energy-packed performance. I felt lucky to be there.
Marsalis talked to the audience about the two masters, Ellington and Gershwin. He mentioned that, as a jazz composer, Duke Ellington did not always play by the “rules” of composing. Marsalis said, “It’s not that Ellington broke the rules, he simply ignored them.” Some of those rules that he would ignore were actually ones that he had established in some of his earlier works.
Duke Ellington has often been compared to J.S. Bach. Like Bach, Ellington was constantly experimenting, rethinking and recycling thematic material. Like Bach, he was constantly stealing from himself and from those around him.
Bach is everywhere.