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An Ellington debate in 1943

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In 1942, the English jazz journalist and author Max Jones founded together with Albert McCarthy and Charles Fox the English jazz magazine Jazz Music. Its issue no. 8/1943 was  focused on Duke Ellington and called Special Ellington Number.

jazz-music-sep-1943

Among the many articles in the issue were two very critical of Ellington’s recent development at the time – some might even call them vicious. One was by Stanley Dance entitled Jazz On And Off  The Track and another by Charles Fox called He’s Got It Bad And That Ain’t Good.

Discussing the two articles in the winter issue of Blue Light in 2014, Roger Boyes says that they ”reveal that the writers could not engage with Ellington’s new music”.

And this is certainly obvious.

Dance starts his article by saying ”Judging from the records we have heard recently the Ellington Orchestra was never worse” and later on he says about Billy Strayhorn that ”he will have originality at the expense of beauty. His work is entirely to be deplored.” Fox’ article is less condemning but its title summarizes very well what he has to says.

However, not everybody agreed with in particular Dance. One of them was a young man by the name of Vic L. Belleby – later in life DESUK chairman – and he provided a rebuttal, which was published in the October 1943 issue of Jazz Music.

jazz-music-oct-1943

The three articles were reprinted in Blue Light in 2002 and a further reprint in new typeset were planned for Blue Light 2014/4 together with the summarizing article by Roger Boyes quoted above. However, in the end only Boyes’ article was published.

Ian Bradley, the current editor of Blue Light, has kindly made the refreshed versions of the articles in pdf format available to the website and they are now in the Ellington Archive together with Roger Boyes´2014 article.

It might be true, as Boyes says in his article, that ”there are better things to reprint” but the three articles provides an interesting read of clashing views on Ellington at one of his career peaks but also from a historiography point of view.

 


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