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Duke Ellington

Prelude to a Kiss | Things Ain’t What They Used to Be | B Sharp Blues

Part Ten Chapters 12, 13

… and now the mood is Ellingtonian: The Duke himself is playing a rich chord progression. As he thickens the chromatic descent with suspended harmonies, ‘Prelude to a Kiss’ sounds more like post-coitum blues: Tenderness and nostalgia, sadness and loss, emerge to colour the melodic motifs. Keeping the melody moving, the tone combinations envelop me in the sensuality of their sound.


Your body sways as Ellington plays the lilting riff of a twelve-bar blues: ‘Things Ain’t What They Used to Be’. Like a river current the rhythm gathers us in its forward motion; in our blood we feel the underlying pulse. Floating on this luxurious surge, our bodies move still closer together: With his distinctive touch the Duke finds the supple rhythm of slow love-making, the elusive groove of a leisurely fuck. Now he lets the tone linger, now he strikes it staccato; now he plays it in a whisper, now he bangs it out loud: No matter what the touch, the message is the same: Titi-boom, spang-a-lang, you’re my baby!

Photo : Lisette Model

Photo: Ted Williams

Here she comes, a pleated silk blouse over a black bustier, a man in an open-necked shirt and a 3-day beard beside her. We invite them to sit down. He’s Raphaël, she’s Maya. Revelling in the oyster she’s sucked from the shell, she swallows it then says:

̶  I like this music.

I like her green-grey eyes, her shaggy black bob.

̶  Me too, I say.

At a sprightly clip, Ellington gives his signature buoyancy to ‘B Sharp Blues’. Infectiously communicative, between relentless movement and supreme relaxation the swing suspends us all in its contradiction.

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