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A Tone Parallel to Duke Ellington - The Man in the Music

A Tone Parallel to Duke Ellington

The Man in the Music

By Jack Chambers
Series: American Made Music Series

Hardcover : 9781496855701, 256 pages, 4 musical examples; 1 table, March 2025
Paperback : 9781496855749, 256 pages, 4 musical examples; 1 table, March 2025
Expected to ship: 2025-03-17
Expected to ship: 2025-03-17

Ellington’s music with fresh thematic explorations to delight music lovers


In this insightful new volume, Jack Chambers explores Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington’s music thematically, collating motifs, memes, and predilections that caught Ellington's attention and inspired his restless muse. In presenting Ellington’s work in this manner, Chambers situates the music in the context in which it was created—historical, political, musical, biographic, and personal. Chambers offers a novel kind of access to the man and the music.

Ellington’s music presents a daunting task for listeners because of its sheer volume. The numbers defy credulity. Ellington wrote more than two thousand compositions in numerous genres, including pop songs, big band swing, revues, hymns, tone poems, soundtracks, suites, ballets, concertos, and symphonies. Where to start? The themes in this book offer natural entry points. They provide the context in which the music came into being, with enough biography to satisfy music lovers, even those who come to the book knowing very little about Ellington’s life. Each chapter features its own playlist as a guide to the music discussed, and, in some cases, fuller listings in case readers might want to pursue a topic further. In the early chapters, Chambers covers topics that occupied Ellington through much of his career, and in later chapters he covers more specific themes, some of them from Ellington's last decades, which are less well studied. The music, Ellington said, is his “continuing autobiography,” and it reveals the man behind it.


"A Tone Parallel to Duke Ellington is original and stimulating, a significant contribution to the literature on the music of Duke Ellington. Written in an elegant and engaging style, the book offers new insight to Ellington scholars but at the same time offers an accessible point of entry to readers new to Ellington’s work, life, and times. Demonstrating exemplary knowledge and expertise, Jack Chambers’ thematic approach sheds new light on Ellington’s achievements, making astute observations on their limits and offering much food for thought on Ellington’s legacy and its future. This is a book for scholars, students, Ellington’s legion of admirers, and anyone interested in one of the most culturally significant figures of the twentieth century."

- Ian Bradley, former editor of Blue Light, the Duke Ellington Society UK journal

"As we mark the 125th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birth, and the 50th year since his passing, Jack Chambers’ book will be a focal point for the attention generated about Ellington. It is a valuable entry point for new Ellington fans."

- Steven Bowie, author of Concerto for Cootie: The Life and Times of Cootie Williams