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Non-Prog DVD/Video Reviews

Duke Ellington

Love You Madly/A Concert of Sacred Music at Grace Cathedral DVD

Review by Gary Hill

There are few out there who know anything about the man, or jazz in general, who wouldn't call Duke Ellington "a genius." His musical concepts were heads above so many who were his contemporaries. The man continues to influence music to this day, albeit perhaps more indirectly in modern times than overtly. For anyone with an interest in jazz or musical history this DVD is a must have. Fans of Ellington certainly don't need to be told to pick this one up - they probably already have. For the rest of you - if you really want to understand some of the musical influences on the sounds that have come about after the man, this is a great place to look.

The DVD is actually two separate documentaries put together on one disc. The first is a film from the 1960's called (imagine that) "Love You Madly." It showcases an incredibly talented musician and composer who obviously commanded the respect of his peers and music audiences. It is a collection of live performances, interview segments and various behind the scenes material. While it certainly seems dated - mostly in terms of the colloquialisms of the time - it is no less vital and interesting. It showcases some stellar performances and truly takes you into the mind of the man responsible for the music in a way that just listening would not. Ellington himself said that this was "…the best film about Duke Ellington ever made…" Well, I don't have much to compare it to, but from what I've seen, I can certainly believe that statement. This is an excellent production.

The second program is "A Concert of Sacred Music At Grace Cathedral". This one is unusual and really showcases the far-reaching concepts of Ellington. It is a film of a performance on September 16th 1965 - one show of a series of three. The material here seems to transcend all borders by creating a concert of religious music that encompasses music ranging from classical to jazz to spirituals, blues and over course gospel. It is music and dance, and certainly a unique format in which to experience "religious" music. It really shows the levels on which this innovator thought. It is the same far-reaching sense of artistry that has been embodied by progressive rock musicians in the eras since.

For those looking to understand what Duke Ellington was all about, there really can't be much better place to begin than this. For those just wanting a taste of some of the best that jazz had to offer - again this comes highly recommended. Don't expect to see modern film techniques, sound quality or anything of that nature - these were filmed in the 1960's. Do expect quality musicianship, songwriting and insights from a true creator of brilliant music.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 1 at

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