Monday, February 11, 2008

Duke Ellington, jazz

I generally don't enjoy jazz. The Sex and the City episode where Carrie makes fun of the jazz musician she's dating is the one example of Carrie's vacuousness that I find entirely endearing.

I enjoy a classic Coltraine record or the sweet sound of my neighbor playing the sax in the park behind my house. When I'm feeling adventurous, I can listen to Herbie Hancock's modern piano pieces. But long modern improvisational stuff, I just can't stomach.

I also generally don't enjoy Jimmy Stewart. So it's beyond me why I recently rented the movie "Anatomy of a Murder," a Stewart courtroom drama with a Duke Ellington soundtrack. The movie's great, if you can get past the latent anti-women sentiment. The Ellington soundtrack is wonderful. I will even concede that Stewart is excellent in this. Hands down, the best part of the movie is the following dialog:

[Judge Weaver has stopped the testimony by Detective Sergeant James Durgo, State Police, and called the lawyers to his bench]

Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler, you finally got your rape into the case, and I think all the details should now be made clear to the jury. What exactly was the undergarment just referred to

Paul Biegler: Panties, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: Do you expect this subject to come up again?

Paul Biegler: Yes, Sir.

Judge Weaver: There's a certain light connotation attached to the word "panties." Can we find another name for them?

Mitch Lodwick: I never heard my wife call 'em anything else.

Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler?

Paul Biegler: I'm a bachelor, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: That's a great help. Mr. Dancer?

Claude Dancer: When I was overseas during the war, Your Honor, I learned a French word. I'm afraid that might be slightly suggestive.

Judge Weaver: Most French words are.


E said...

your ambivalence towards jazz is strange. While we might all dislike fusion, or free form modernistic expressions, there are few things that rival just a steady bop or cool CD. The music might not make road trip status, or start up song level (you need to have a post on this before the season starts), still it is a needed change from classical or folk. Did you grow up with jazz, or ever room with Grewe? This might explain the hesitancy to fully embrace this American art form.

The real tragedy of Anatomy of a Murder is not the treatment women receive, but the place of African Americans. Seriously, Duke Ellington composes the score, and is rewarded with a juke joint scene as "Pig Eye." Amazingly he is not even credited with this roll, an awkward scene sharing a piano bench with Jimmy "Panties" Stewart. A shame.

The_Writer said...

Good point about Duke Ellington. It would be interesting to read criticism of this movie in its historical context. Perhaps in 1959 it was groundbreaking to feature jazz and Ellington. I appreciate classic jazz; I just don't enjoy it as much as other genres of music.