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Download Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington Audiobook, by Terry Teachout Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Terry Teachout Narrator: Peter Francis James Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2013 ISBN: 9780698135697
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A major new biography of Duke Ellington from the acclaimed author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington was the greatest jazz composer of the twentieth century—and an impenetrably enigmatic personality whom no one, not even his closest friends, claimed to understand. The grandson of a slave, he dropped out of high school to become one of the world’s most famous musicians, a showman of incomparable suavity who was as comfortable in Carnegie Hall as in the nightclubs where he honed his style. He wrote some fifteen hundred compositions, many of which, like “Mood Indigo” and “Sophisticated Lady,” remain beloved standards, and he sought inspiration in an endless string of transient lovers, concealing his inner self behind a smiling mask of flowery language and ironic charm.

As the biographer of Louis Armstrong, Terry Teachout is uniquely qualified to tell the story of the public and private lives of Duke Ellington. Duke peels away countless layers of Ellington’s evasion and public deception to tell the unvarnished truth about the creative genius who inspired Miles Davis to say, “All the musicians should get together one certain day and get down on their knees and thank Duke.”

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Teachout’s Duke reveals the man behind ‘Mood Indigo’ as a sly, taciturn man who guarded his secrets well. Obviously a labor of love, this 480-page biography sheds new light on one of the most important figures in the history of American music.”

    Barnes & Noble, editorial review

  • “In his clear-eyed reassessment of a man regarded in godlike terms, Teachout…delves behind ‘the mask of smiling, noncommittal urbanity that he showed to the world.’ The facts and stories he relates aren’t new, but rarely have they had such a compelling narrative flow or ring of reliability…Teachout keeps his psychoanalyzing within safe limits; he contextualizes historically without sounding contrived, and honors his subject’s musical achievements through just the right amount of close analysis…Teachout relates even the most dramatic episodes in the Ellington story with a poised impartiality. He doesn’t take a novelistic approach, nor does he describe music with…lyrical flights of fancy…Teachout writes in an earthbound style marked by sound scholarship and easy readability.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A thoroughly researched homage…Teachout delivers a Duke unlike any we’ve seen in previous biographies…At last, Teachout affirms that music was Ellington’s greatest mistress—and to her, the composer was unrelentingly loyal.”


  • “Though respectful and musically knowing, Teachout presents the famously evasive and not altogether admirable Ellington scars and all, including the rarely photographed one on his left cheek, inflicted by his jealous wife. It is Ellington’s breathtakingly enormous musical contribution and his gift for collaboration, albeit often appropriation, that is the fitting focus of this important book.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Teachout gives much insight into Ellington’s life, personality, working habits, and compositions.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Teachout neatly balances colorful anecdote with shrewd character assessments and musicological analysis, and he manages to debunk Ellington’s self-mythologizing, while preserving his stature as the man who caught jazz’s ephemeral genius in a bottle.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “With a biography of Louis Armstrong under his belt, the author now has his sights on Duke Ellington, and this audiobook is well worth hearing: fascinatin’, illuminatin’, and syncopatin’. Peter Francis James’ loud, resonant voice is a far cry from jazz cool, but it demands notice. James lends the book an energy that keeps the story moving and enables the listener to hear every crystal-clear syllable. He doesn’t develop specific character voices, opting instead for subtle accents and changes of pitch and tone. James does a nice job.”


  • Longlisted for the 2013 National Book Award for Nonfiction
  • A San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2013 in Nonfiction
  • A Publishers Weekly Top 10 Book in Music
  • One of the Daily Beast’s Must-Reads for Fall 2013
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About the Author

Terry Teachout, the drama critic at the Wall Street Journal, is the author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong and Satchmo at the Waldorf, a one-man play about Armstrong’s life and times. He lives in New York City. 

About the Narrator

Peter Francis James is an accomplished actor on both the stage and the screen. His theater credits include roles in On Golden Pond, Much Ado about Nothing, and August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. His many film and television credits include Jahfree Neema in Oz, Raymond Parks in The Rosa Parks Story, Joe Gould’s Secret, The Guiding Light, Law & Order: SVU, and Third Watch. James’ audiobook narration has won him nine AudioFile Earphones Awards.