Did The Duke have what it takes to make it on American Idol?

Jazz Night III “The History and Music of Duke Ellington” is on Friday, so we thought we’d get you a little sneak preview!

Chris was able to grab some time with Adam Jenkins to ask a few very important questions about this Friday’s featured jazz master, check it out!

Duke of what? Is “Duke” really Ellington’s first name?

“No. Duke’s real name is Edward Kennedy Ellington and he was born in Washington D.C (which is why the D.C. Quarter will have him on it) How did he acquire the aforementioned moniker? It’s a funny story it started when he was young and of course involved pretty girls who … see you Friday night.”

Why did you pick Ellington to be the first artist featured in your Jazz Profiles series? Why not Kenny G?

“I chose Duke for a number of reasons, first and foremost out of respect for his accomplishments. He is truly one of the most revered musicians in 20th century American music (Jazz,Rock or Classical) His professional career covers almost the entire history of jazz from 1920 to 1970. To put it in perspective, when the great alto saxophonist Charlie Parker was born, Duke already was playing professionally, and Duke survived him by 19 years. Duke’s music is one of America’s great exports.”

“Secondly, the story of Duke Ellington, or more correctly Duke Inc. is a fascinating history of 20th century America, The Harlem Renaissance, race politics, the politics of the music business, the management skills of keeping 20 guys (Sun Ra referred to Duke’s band as a bunch of Diva’s) happy while on tour and much, much more.”

“As for not starting with Kenny G…..time hasn’t illuminated his role in the development of jazz yet. I’ll leave that story for future scholars.”

What would Duke Ellington think of Kelly Clarkson?

“Not one to presume to put words in Duke’s mouth, I might imagine that in some eloquent way he would say that if her music is honest and well performed then it doesn’t matter what anyone else would say. (I think the Ellington Ensemble would not have lasted on American Idol for very long even though history will remember them for much longer).”

Tell us something shocking or amazing about Duke Ellington.

“He didn’t like the color green. Not shocking I know, but I’ve got to save the good stuff for Friday.”

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