Bridging Musical Styles- Inside the music of New Duke

Bridging Musical Styles- Inside the music of New Duke

By Brian Q. Torff

On the wall in our den, my wife Sarah hung two images in separate frames. The first is an album cover from the early 60’s of Miles Davis’ landmark recording Sketches of Spain. It belonged to my father Selwyn, and I heard it often when I was seven years old. The mysterious sounds of that music that came from his Fisher Hi-Fi speakers were mesmerizing to me. I was transfixed by the colors in the music of Miles Davis and the arranger Gil Evans. The second image on our wall is a poster from the 60th Newport Jazz Festival where I had the honor of performing in August of 2014.

The two images bounce off of each other. That may best explain the musical approach of New Duke. Instead of separating styles we combine them by letting Jimi Hendrix speak to Duke Ellington and James Brown, Stevie Wonder to Billy Strayhorn, Cream and the Doors intersect with big band jazz. Like the images on the wall, these sounds are in dialog with one another, transcending time, genre, and category.

People love categories and that is fine in the grocery store where we can separate the various food groups, but art is a place that disintegrates boundaries.

If we hit our mark we achieve, as Ellington gracefully put it, a sound that is beyond category.


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