Friday, 9 December 2016

We shall have to get out our leopard skins again

Duke has the permanent answer to these stereotypes and caricatures of Negroes. It is as well a deft parry of the thrusts of amateur anthropologists who refer to all Africans of darker color as savages. It's a musical comedy called, tentatively, Air-Conditioned Jungle. The opening scene sets mood and clime and theme. In a particularly chic living-room, decorated in the best of urbane good taste, but not given to flamboyant extravagances, sit the King and Queen of one of the ancient African tribes. She's dressed in a gown by Schiaparelli; he in a sleekly fitted dinner jacket. They are drinking their after-dinner brandy and coffee in relaxed comfort: the house is air conditioned. A muffled bell rings. The King picks up the telephone. "Yes," he says, "yes, yes. Mmm-hmm. Oh, bother. Well, if there's nothing we can do about it." He slams the receiver down on its cradle and turns unhappily to his consort. "What is it, darling?" she asks. "There's another of those expeditions coming over from America. Trying to discover the original sources of their jazz, you know?" "Oh, damn," the Queen curses. "Yes, my dear," the King says, "we shall have to get out our leopard skins again."

Ulanov, Duke Ellington (The Roots of Jazz)

Thursday, 8 December 2016