Duke Ellington: Jungle Nights in Harlem

"The grotesque spectacle of Harlem nightclubs for all-white audiences," historian Ted Gioia believes, "served to mitigate, however clumsily, the currents of racism that were running rampant in other social institutions. In America, music was the first sphere of social interaction in which racial barriers were challenged and overturned." The Cotton Club—an oasis of glamour in Depression-era Harlem—provided grotesquely spectacular context for Duke Ellington's "jungle music." Maintaining his dignity in this racially compromised setting made Ellington a star. Creating works of musical genius in the same setting, Duke exposed the inherent obscenity of relegating civilized people to imaginary jungles.

November 05, 2007 · 0 comments


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