Duke Ellington’s America

book cover

Interview from the documentary “On the Road with Duke Ellington” (1967)

(Quotes are from Duke Ellington’s America)

Ellington speaks in this clip about his obsession with composing, and how it had joyfully taken over his life. Here’s another view of the same situation, from the book: “In 1969 [when Ellington was 70 years old], choreographer Alvin Ailey spent a week with Ellington while they collaborated on [a ballet piece called] The River. After playing two shows a night, every night, and receiving guests before, after and between those shows until 5:00 a.m., Ellington began to compose. Ailey had the hotel room next to Ellington’s: ‘I would hear him. I could hear the piano between 5:00 in the morning and 10:00…working away.’ Sometimes Ellington would call him during those hours and ask him to come by and hear something new for the ballet. ‘And I’d jump and get myself together. Act like I was, you know, ready,’ recalled Ailey. He was in supreme physical condition, but still experienced difficulty keeping up with Ellington.”