Zurich Jazz Talks #17

For Ed Partyka, Duke Ellington is a great inspiration. Ellington kept his Jazz Orchestra alive for nearly 50 years, creating a body of sound that is incredibly important to jazz history and, of course, big band history. Ed Partyka tells us what Duke Ellington’s works have inspired him as a big band leader in the 21st century, and he reveals what qualities he somewhat envies about Ellington.

Ellington’s orchestra has more or less a standard big band lineup, but still with a few extra touches. If you compare Duke Ellington’s orchestra with the orchestra of the second great sound aesthete, the Count Basie Orchestra, you notice differences: In Count Basie’s orchestra, Freddie Green’s rhythm guitar plays a central role. Ellington’s orchestra from about 1930 has no guitar and Ellington himself conducted relatively much. Also, Ellington’s trombone section has only three trombones – unlike m orchestras of Basie and other big bands, where there are usually four to five trombones. This somewhat leaner trombone section sound is very crucial to Ellington’s sound aesthetic.