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The Nat Hentoff Interview….

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"Don't Categorize"

By Duke Ellington

As transmitted by Nat Hentoff

My oldest friend in music, Charles Mingus, never used the word jazz. He said, I play "Mingus music." Duke Ellington who I got to know when I was quite young and was my mentor never used the word "jazz." He didn't like terminology.

He gave me a lesson when I was very young. He said, "don't categorize the music. Dont use terms like "cutting edge jazz and "old time jazz". You go to each musician and you open yourself to what that particular player is telling you in his music.

I used to know John Coltrane very well. He had the sense that his music and everything he was doing was a world music. He was in a world consciousness. He would listen for hours, not just Indian music he was listening to African Tribal Music way back which was recorded.

It all becomes part of the will to be yourself collectively and individually.

What I do on Linear Notes and have always done - where does the music come from? From the musician and himself, his life, what he wanted to say in the music.  You talk to these people as if you were at a bar.  So my linear notes like my books on music are what musicians tell me. So I'm not a critic, Im a reporter.

Max Roach:

I was privileged to be the A&R man for Max Roach's "Freedom Now Suites." That's just when the Freedom Rides were going down south. We were all in the studio and afterwards as soon as the record was released we were banned in South Africa so we figured we'd done something.

Duke Ellington used to say to me, "Im writing about my people in these songs." If you listen to the blues singers carefully, they were singing about what society was like @ that time as well as their own blues.

Jazz is an awakening form and what I call "the spirit of this country."