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From David Berger:

The Most Complete Repository of Musical Knowledge about Duke Ellington Ever Created

David Berger, recognized worldwide as a premier authority on Duke Ellington's music, is setting out to create a series of five books in which he will share, as fully as he can, his own knowledge and insights into Duke Ellington's music, from more than five decades of study. He says, “I went to share it all, but there is so much to discuss. I need to devote my time intensively to create this while I can.”

The five-book series, The Ellington Effect, is funded in its initial stage, but writing all five books will require far greater funding than has been committed. Without it, this resource will be lost when Berger passes from the scene.

Please read more about the project below, and contact David if you are interested in sponsorship, support, or promotion, or have a question.

You can also join the Ellington Effect email list here.

The Project

“Duke Ellington’s music, more than anyone else’s, expresses what it feels like to be an American.” – Albert Murray

Academia celebrates the great composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and so on—all Europeans who created music out of their unique cultural backgrounds. But as a country, Americans have failed to recognize the importance of our own music beyond the popular arena.

In jazz, Americans have had a number of brilliant composers—Jelly Roll Morton, Horace Silver, Benny Golson and Charles Mingus, to name a few—but none can compare to Duke Ellington, whose work created and codified the language, leading the way for every jazz musician who followed. Duke’s 50-year career spanned several eras and styles, with music that remains both innovative and grounded in tradition.

So, why has Ellington not been given the same level of respect as Europe’s geniuses? Could it be national or racial prejudice? Not enough time for perspective? The collaborative nature of his music? His stature as a pop and cultural icon? Yes, but there’s also something accorded most great composers that Ellington has gotten very little of —serious, published scholarship. A few books discuss his music. Some include analysis, but there has yet to be a book that examines his full scores in depth, getting beneath the surface techniques and exploring what makes this music at once uniquely personal, American—and universal.

We are creating a set of five volumes, each dealing with one era of Ellington’s work:

  • Flaming Youth: 1924-1930
  • The Age of Invention: 1931-1939
  • Lightning in a Bottle: 1940-1943
  • Extended Abstraction: 1944-1956
  • Citizen of the World: 1957-1974

Each volume will include analyses of 8-10 scores. The books will be available in both print and kindle formats.

The Background

Duke Ellington's music has set the standard for which I have aspired to in my own composition, arranging, and band leading for the past fifty years.  It inspires me, and listening to it brings me unending joy.  I love sharing this with other musicians and non-musicians alike.

I've been transcribing and studying Duke Ellington's music for the past fifty years.  I taught a 2-semester graduate course at the Manhattan School of Music on Ellington's oeuvre.  We used my scores and recordings for analysis.  I contributed two chapters to The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington.  One chapter, "The Land of Suites," covered his extended works, and the other was entitled "In the Process of Becoming," which told the stories of how a few of his pieces developed after the initial writing of the score.  In 2014 I published Creative Jazz Composing and Arranging Volume 1, in which I analyzed four of my own compositions in great detail.  This gave me the idea to write a similar book analyzing Ellington's scores.  But, I didn't want to limit it to just a few scores since Ellington has such a large catalog of compositions (about 1500) written over a 50-year span.  This led me to the idea of doing a series of five volumes, each one focusing on the music of a decade or so.  With recent changes in the copyright law, every year new titles enter the public domain, therefore eliminating any barriers that pertain to copyright permission.  Lastly, at the time of writing this I am 70 years old and would like to pass on what I have learned to future generations while I am still able to.

I haven't started writing the analyses yet, although I have written little pieces of analyses for performance notes and program notes over the years.  But one major step I have already completed for this project is nearly 500 transcriptions of complete Ellington scores, upon which the analyses will be based.  Many of these have been published, and for those that haven't, I'm in the process of putting my pencil scores into notation software so that they are publishing-ready.