Beyond the Cotton Club: The Persistence of Duke Ellington's Jungle Style


Beyond the Cotton Club: The Persistence of Duke Ellington's Jungle Style
Jazz Perspectives
1749-4060, 1749-4079
The unique sound of the subset of Duke Ellington's music that came to be known as “jungle style” predates the extra-musical associations of exotic, primitive Africa and Africans that were tied to it once Ellington began working at Harlem's Cotton Club in the late 1920s. Significantly, while the expectations of early 20th-century white American audiences shaped the programmatic meaning of early works like Echoes of the Jungle, Ellington did not shed the sounds or the African associations of jungle style after leaving the Cotton Club. Near the end of his career, the by then internationally famous Ellington was writing African-themed pieces in jungle style not for white audiences seeking exotic entertainment, but for black African audiences. Tracing Ellington's use of jungle style from its origins before the Cotton Club, through his efforts to shift his public image from wild jungle entertainer to artistically significant composer, and to works like La Plus Belle Africaine and Togo Brava Suite that were composed for specifically African contexts in the late 1960s and 1970s shows his changing relationship to this style and its associations over time. In the end, Ellington claimed both the sounds and idea of jungle style as his own by choosing to link them not in a situation where his employer demanded it, but of his own volition as an expression of his relationship to the African Diaspora.
Beyond the Cotton Club
2019-05-03T07:51:56Z (Crossref)