One of the most wise and effective teachers I ever had was Maestro Mehli Mehta. Maestro Mehta said very wise things most of the time, but this one gem was particularly great. He said “there are three great composers for wind instruments. Mozart (no dispute), Brahms (true, no dispute), and Duke Ellington (absolutely true!)!
I’ve come to realize over the years that Stravinsky could possibly be on that list too, but Ellington is truly masterful in achieving a celestial sound particularly with winds.
Mehli probably got to hear Duke and his band back in London or NYC, live in concert in Harlem? I always thought it was the highest compliment I ever heard Mr. Mehta give another mortal—Ellington was given holy status by Mehta—equal status with Mozart and Brahms! That is an honorable place in the Mehta-view of history.
I am discovering the freedom and spontaneity of Ellington’s music as I binge listen to all 15 hours of my Ellington playlist.