Duke Ellington's “East St. Louis Toodle-O” Revisited


Duke Ellington's “East St. Louis Toodle-O” Revisited
Jazz Perspectives
1749-4060, 1749-4079
“East St. Louis Toodle-O” is probably the only Ellington composition which displays Ellington's mode of reworking and modernizing a work over the course of forty-five years, largely through a process of accommodating the individual characters of the different stylists he had at his disposal at different moments in time. In its first two arrangements, the composition reflects Ellington's rise to success in an exemplary fashion. The first arrangement (recorded for the first time on Vocalion) reveals how “East St. Louis” was instrumental for Ellington in shaping a unique musical style that would later be exploited by Irving Mills as “jungle music.” It is also the first Ellington composition in which he had proven himself to be a serious contender within the highly competitive Manhattan “hot jazz” scene. “East St. Louis” may well be one of the few compositions (along with “Black and Tan Fantasy” and “Immigration Blues”) that allowed him and his band to cease their engagements at the Kentucky Club and move uptown to Harlem. The second arrangement (Victor) is a testament to Ellington's music during the early days of his tenure at the Cotton Club.
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