For years, friends of the late Duke Ellington came together at his very eccentric sister Ruth Ellington Boatwright’s home to celebrate the life of the late musician. One guest, a religious man, states that he never met The Duke, but like many fans of the famous jazz composer and pianist, he got to know him through his music. Perhaps affected by Ruth’s attire (huge glasses lined with jewels—no doubt fake—and a curly blond wig) and Al Hibbler’s flapping dentures, the man opines matter-of-factly that we will die but The Duke’s music never will. And it hasn’t. Reminiscing in Tempo is a great excuse to hear Ellington’s music…for anyone without a record player. You see, director Gary Keys is a cool cat and a great lover of music but this puff doesn’t strain to understand Ellington the man, coasting on the appeal of The Duke’s deceptively simple compositions and glossing over much of his personal life, his remote relationship to the Civil Rights movement, and the purpose of his perpetually classy demeanor. Keys boasts that this may be our only opportunity to see footage of The Duke performing in Mexico in the ‘60s, but few songs from Ellington’s great Latin American Suite, if truth be told, suggest that he understood the unique spiritual essence of the country any more than he did the ethos of the Far East. To my ears, “Sleeping Lady”—a masterpiece for sure—could just as easily have been about a mountain in Europe. Likewise, Reminiscing in Tempo is not in sync with its subject matter.
- 81 min
- Gary Keys
- Duke Ellington, Ruth Ellington Boatwright, Ira Gitler, Al Hibbler, Dan Morgenstern, Bobby Short, Dr. Billy Taylor, The 1968 Duke Ellington Orchestra
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