“Is the Duke deserting jazz?”

classicisation through improvisation in Diminuendo and crescendo in blue


  • Katherine Willians University of Nottingnham
  • Fausto Borém Federal University of Minas Gerais


Diminuendo and crescendo in blue by Duke Ellington, Jazz composition and improvisation, Classicisation of popular music


Since the beginning of Duke Ellington’s career as composer and leader of his own jazz orchestra in the 1920s, a common critical theme has been the comparison with European art music composers such as Delius and Debussy. Assertions such as Constant LAMBERT (1934) statement that Duke Ellington set a “standard by which we may judge …highbrow composers” focussed on the complex compositional devices in his output. Rather than restate these  offcited judgements of Ellington’s compositional style, this paper examines the intersection between the classical and jazz styles by analysing typically improvised sections of Ellington’s work. Consideration of the development of an improvised baritone saxophone solo on Diminuendo and crescendo in blue  indicates the establishment of fixed solos in the Ellington Orchestra’s repertoire. The degree of composition implied by this warrants further thought.


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Author Biographies

Katherine Willians, University of Nottingnham

Katherine Williams is Senior Lecturer and Lecturer in Music Production and Jazz at Leeds College of Music, England. Her areas of research interest include jazz, popular music in general, opera (especially 20th century), and geographies of performance venues. He has published in journals such as Jazz Perspectives and Popular Music, as well as in conference proceedings such as Refereed Proceedings of the 9th Nordic Jazz Conference. He teaches classical and jazz saxophone at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, and has developed an intense career as a performer in both styles.

Fausto Borém, Federal University of Minas Gerais

Fausto Borém is a Professor at UFMG, where he created the Master's program and the Per Musi magazine. A CNPq researcher since 1994, he has published two books, three book chapters, dozens of articles on performance practices and their interfaces (composition, analysis, musicology, ethnomusicology of popular music and music education) in national and international journals, dozens of editions of scores and recitals in major national and international double bass events. He has received several awards in Brazil and abroad as soloist, theorist, composer and teacher.


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How to Cite

Willians, Katherine, and Fausto Borém. 2014. “‘Is the Duke Deserting jazz?’: Classicisation through Improvisation in Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue”. Per Musi, no. 29 (June):1-8. https://periodicos.ufmg.br/index.php/permusi/article/view/39134.