In the next few months, several public events will focus on “Duke Ellington’s America”, the forthcoming book by CMCI Lecturer Dr. Harvey G. Cohen, which will be released in Europe in mid-June and in the US in mid-May on the University of Chicago Press. Using extensive new research, the book offers a new look at the life and career of the American composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, and demonstrates why he should be viewed as a significant figure in history, not just in music.
Two matching events will take place at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival and at King’s College London, which is a sponsor of the festival. Dr. Cohen will be interviewed about his book by BBC Radio 3 presenter and Times jazz critic Alyn Shipton at King’s College London at the Safra Lecture Theatre on Monday 26 April 2010 at 7:00PM, and at the Playhouse in Cheltenham on Saturday 2 May 2010 at 10:45AM. To illustrate some of the themes of “Duke Ellington’s America”, rare excerpts of Ellington interviews and concerts from 1943-1972 will be played during both events. The event at King’s is free, and the Cheltenham event costs £6; advance copies of the book will be on sale at both sites.
Cohen will also appear at the Annual General Meeting of the Duke Ellington Society UK (DESUK) at the Barbican on Saturday 8 May 2010 at 1:00PM. He will be interviewed onstage by Duke Ellington Society UK Chairman Peter Caswell. A £5 admission charge for non-DESUK members includes a concert of Ellington music performed by the 16-piece Guildhall Jazz Orchestra.
Some early reviews for “Duke Ellington’s America” have arrived. Cultural historian Lewis Erenberg called the book “an excellent piece of cultural history, grounded in fantastic sources…a treasure trove that future scholars will mine for decades. Cohen rightfully places Ellington in the forefront of African American desires for freedom, dignity, and cultural equality, while also offering a fascinating account of the nature of his creative genius.” Another cultural historian, Burton Peretti, concluded: “Unlike almost all his predecessors, Cohen has produced a book that does justice to the complexity and importance of Duke Ellington’s life.” And in the April 1st issue of Library Journal, a reviewer commented that “Cohen adds to the dozens of books about jazz great Duke Ellington with a new approach…[he] delivers a social history that firmly places the bandleader within his time…Cohen offers a fascinating, exhaustively researched social history of Duke Ellington’s world. Highly recommended for general readers and jazz aficionados alike.”
More events focusing on “Duke Ellington’s America” will be announced in the coming weeks.