Edward Green, Composer, Music Educator

Aesthetic Realism Explains the Beauty of Jazz and of Duke Ellington:
A Talk by Edward Green

A review by Carrie Wilson

On Saturday, April 10, 1999 at 8 PM, music educator and award-winning composer Edward Green spoke at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—141 Greene Street, in the SoHo section of New York City—on "Aesthetic Realism Explains the Beauty of Jazz and of Duke Ellington."

  Duke Ellington

First presented in Washington, D.C. at an annual conference of the International Association of Jazz Educators, with the sponsorship of the Smithsonian Institution, this talk was given on April 10th in celebration of Duke Ellington's centennial. It was be part of a dramatic presentation of Aesthetic Realism about life, art, and the sciences, "People Are Trying to Put Opposites Together."

With vivid musical examples, Mr. Green told why Ellington's works truly matter—in music history, and for the lives of people today! What he showed is based on this magnificent principle, stated by Eli Siegel, poet, critic, and founder of the education Aesthetic Realism:

Highlighted were two of Ellington's early masterpieces, Black and Tan Fantasy and The Mooche, and his swinging, rich, and compact three-minute tone poem of 1940, Harlem Airshaft.

People saw what jazz is really about! Mr. Green told how, as early as 1925, in the Baltimore American, Eli Siegel explained that there is "metaphysical ecstasy" in jazz. "Jazz is a new junction of the deep and the lightsome, the permanent and the unexpected, the continuous and the surprising," Mr. Siegel was later to write. "Jazz does that which Mozart did not have the time to do." In his thrilling talk, Edward Green said:

I love Duke Ellington, and the reason he is so good is how, again and again, in his music, sound as gutsy, direct, raw, and rough is at one with sound that is elegant, subtle, delicate, and profoundly thought-through. Eli Siegel once said: "Since all art goes for the making one of the animalistic and the conscious, or intellectual, or organized, when jazz happened, it was a step towards the success of that....The motto for jazz is: 'Professor Tiger!'"

Edward Green showed—and this is something never seen before—that the historic recordings of the Ellington band of the 1920s and later, represent the way every person wants his or her life to be. For instance, speaking of Harlem Airshaft, he stated: "People usually use the disorder in the world to be angry, scornful, depressed—to think the world is an ugly job and that God was inept. Ellington's music is saying, with style and joy, there is order in confusion, form in messiness; and this is the way reality truly is!"

Duke Ellington and His Orchestra

This was a ground-breaking, scholarly, exciting musical event. And with every technical illustration Mr. Green gave, you saw the truth of what Eli Siegel said: "I am disposed to think Duke Ellington is the greatest American composer."


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