Scott Yanow has assembled a celebratory visual overview of Duke Ellington. The oversized book features a pleasant design and 100-plus photographs of Ellington and his musicians, drawn primarily from the Smithsonian Institution’s vast Ellington archives and the private archives of Frank Driggs and Ray Avery. Billy Taylor contributes a foreword that bespeaks his deep admiration of the maestro.
Those who have read my book Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington will be familiar with the information in this book. In the very brief text, Yanow tells a compressed version of the Ellington story, with only a few inaccuracies or over-statements (such as the assertion that Ellington wrote “hundreds” of standards). While I didn’t find any fresh insights or new information here, I did see some unfamiliar photographs.
If you wanted to introduce a teenager to Ellington’s story, the scant, easy-to-read text and abundance of pictures could make Yanow’s book useful as a primer.