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The Jazz Ambassadors: Intersections of American Foreign Power and Black Artistry in Duke Ellington's "Far East Suite"

posted on Jul 09, 2021
By Rebecca E. Coyne - Scholarly discussions of Ellington’s Far East Suite, a composition inspired by his travels to India and the Middle East, have tended to interpret its impressionistic depictions of the “exotic” either as evidence of a superior cultural sensitivity or as the straightforward continuation of a white Orientalist musical tradition. I propose a third view based on the overlapping and racialized power dynamics of jazz ambassadorship itself: Ellington uses conventional jazz tropes rather than absorbing foreign musical influences in the Far East Suite in order to assert the independent...

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