"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Among Ellington's most prominent fans is Wynton Marsalis, recently described preaching to high-schoolers the Gospel According to Duke.
Marsalis didn't seem surprised when only a few students indicated they'd heard the music of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, which he appraised as the greatest band in the history of the Earth. He urged them to go out and buy an Ellington CD; how else could they hope to learn the tunes?
"What chance do you have of speaking French," he asked, "if you've never heard anyone speak it?"
He reminded the students that Ellington was among the most important American composers of the past century, that swing is, or should be, the national dance and that blues is "like the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost."
[Marsalis] wants his people to look the world in the eye, from a position of equality - and that involves acquiring the means for an articulate, confident self-assertion, rather than a resentful, inarticulate one. He sees a potent resource for that cultural elevation lying ready to hand, in the shape of the core jazz tradition.
But note the terms in which Marsalis praises that tradition. It's not because it embodies some mysterious racial essence, a "negritude", to use a phrase much in vogue in Marsalis's youth. It's because it embodies tough standards of artistic coherence and integrity, and an ethic of civilised joy, in which rude self-assertion gives way to collaboration.
And, precisely because it embodies those things, it can speak to people everywhere. Despite accusations of racism (Marsalis has been charged with sidelining white musicians in his jazz programme at the Lincoln Centre), his agenda is not so much racial as conservative. Recently, he spoke of the importance of older forms of dance such as the samba, which are rooted in particular communities. He went on to say: "Couple dancing is very important to the ritual of courtship. I believe in the ritual of courtship."
Those are just the kind of sentiments we've often heard from Roger Scruton.