Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blues In Orbit

Not only is Blues in Orbit the name of my radio show, but it is a classic Duke Ellington album. An album, that as a fan, often seems to go overlooked.

Before I ever became a disc jockey, dancing permeated my soul. For years I spent multiple nights a week lindy-hopping. I became part of the scene, living and breathing the dance. Somehow, dancing became part of the marrow of my bones, a precious life giving substance that couldn't easily be infused in others.

To a dancer, the songs are life. Nothing can rupture your Aorta or Carotid faster than an uninspiring song. Dancers everywhere want inspiring music and will frequent a club based on who the dj is. You see, the djs are either viewed as serial killers of the dance or messiahs. The problem is that what one person likes others may not like.

Even before I loved dancing, I loved music. When I was young my mother said "Tombstone, you love music more than anyone I know and it's unfortunate that you don't have any talent for it." Thanks for telling me my singing sucked before I made it to American Idol, Mom!

This love of music reminds me that despite my affair with dancing, there are many songs to enjoy that aren't danceable songs. I could always understand that an album by a great composer like Duke Ellington could contain some songs to dance to and some to just sit and enjoy.

Blues in Orbit is just one album. There are some songs I love to dance to. Some songs I love to relish--love to feast on. I imagine myself at a table, enjoying one of the seven sins--gluttony. Some songs might even dribble down my chin as I imbibe myself on the intoxicating power that is Ellington's music.

The inebriation I feel at the music lends me to keep the Blues in Orbit album for whatever occasion may be fitting. Once, when I asked a swing dj to play "The Swinger Get the Blues, Too" at a dance, he told me he didn't have the Blues in Orbit album. I was horrified. My terror grew as I learned dance dj after dance dj didn't have the album. I have to satisfy myself that when I dj a dance, I can play songs from the album.

I understand that, to the public, the Blues in Orbit album never was or will be, what some other Duke Ellington albums are. The album came later in his career (albeit 14 years before his death). I think often critics and the public spurn the later work of artists. One reason could be that the critics and populace want artists to be unchanging, unevolving creatures. They remember the glories of an artists prime and try to pigeon hole the artist as only being relevant in that prime. Evolution is often the most damning, career murdering effect that can occur in an artist's life.

Why do I mention this at all? The smoky jazz-joints that are portrayed in Hollywood's golden age are gone. Some of those musicians such as Duke are gone. Had I lived in the era, I would have made it a point to visit some joint--dressed like Cary Grant or some such Hollywood type, and listened to the music. But I will never know the era, except through the music, the dance and film. I can live the era through those things.

Now that the dust has settled and Duke has been gone, and the critics gone...try out the album. See if you like. Listen to it and live it. See if it doesn't have a place on the shelves with what people might consider his more classic albums.

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