The Original

Texas Boogie King

Blues musician and music historian Nat Dove will showcase Ellington's life and music

Bakersfield-based blues musician and music historian Nat Dove will showcase Ellington's life and music at the museum Wednesday.

While the Harlem Renaissance began primarily as a literary and social movement, it quickly expanded to the arts, including music. Duke Ellington and his orchestra figured heavily on the music scene, serving as the house band for Harlem’s Cotton Club from 1927 to 1931. During his tenure at the world-famous nightclub, Ellington earned an international name for himself via weekly radio broadcasts.

Ellington’s innovative music — his daring (for the times) harmonies, sophisticated melodies — elevated not only his career, but the status of jazz to a serious art form. And yet, Dove is quick to point out, it was also entertainment.

“(My lecture) is primarily depicting the music that he did during the Harlem Renaissance for what it was,” Dove said. “It was dance music.”

Dove said his multimedia presentation, which is tailored for a general audience regardless of musical knowledge, will include examples of Ellington’s technique of composing around the unique qualities of his players. He will also show how Ellington’s music captured an era.

“Basically what he was doing was documenting the ambience of Harlem and New York City,” Dove said, citing compositions such as “Harlem Airshaft,” which was inspired by the sounds heard in the streets and alleys of of the city.

Dove said his career as a music lecturer was inspired by Ellington, whom he heard at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival. “As a 10th grader, I was asked to do a presentation on a famous American. I chose Ellington. It was my first presentation.”

Dove, the founder of the Bakersfield Blues Preservation Society, has divided his career between performing and lecturing. The Ellington lecture is part of the museum’s ongoing “First Wednesday” series that reaches out to seniors, though all are welcome.