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Jazz Quotes: Allen Lowe

Devilin Tune volume 4Jazz writer and musician Allen Lowe has put together a terrific series of 9-CD sets documenting jazz from 1895 to 1950 called That Devilin’ Tune, which includes his book of the same name. I’ve posted about these sets before, particularly Volume 4, which covers the 1945-1950 period; they’re wonderful, wide-ranging compendiums of jazz history, accompanied by Lowe’s insightful and engaging text overview. Today I was delving back into Volume 4 and came across a great quote in the booklet. Writing of Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown and Beige (portions of which can be heard in the Night Lights programs Suite History and A Few Words About Jazz), Lowe says:

“It was met by what amounted to a resounding silence, either damned with condescendingly faint praise, criticized as being insufficiently highbrow, or condemned by well-meaning if arrogant jazz apparatchiks like John Hammond as representing a turn away from the populist idea of jazz. Maybe Ellington was getting too hoity toity for some people’s tastes, but if so, more power to him–Black, Brown and Beige was a masterly formulation of rich themes, black nationalistic programmatics, and the classically Ellington rippled jazz textures, all rolled into one piece of rare dignity and power. It’s not just, or even, that he was ahead of his time, but that the critics, as usual, were simply unaware of theirs.”

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