Beyond Category

The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington

by John Edward Hasse

Foreword by Wynton Marsalis


No one led a band like Duke Ellington, no one led a life like Duke Ellington, and no one wrote music like Duke Ellington; he was one of a kind, beyond category.

One of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, Ellington led a fascinating life.  Despite this, there have been few major biographies and none that adequately assesses his musical achievement.  This is the first biography to draw on the 200,000 pages of scrapbooks, letters, business records, musical manuscripts, and photographs in the Duke Ellington archives at the Smithsonian Institution.  In Beyond Category, John Edward Hasse has written a life story of great depth and beauty.

“May well be the most satisfying Ellington biography we’ll see. . . .  Its revelations and insights
Ellington the man are among its most valuable features. . . .  Writing interestingly about such a devoted artist can be difficult but Hasse’s book is as engaging as it is informative.” 

--John Litweiler, Chicago Tribune

“This is the book Ellington students have been waiting for. . . .  Hasse appreciates and examines the great works this genius continued to create up to his final decade.  The analyses both of Ellington’s music and his enigmatic personality are delineated with rare insight.”  --Leonard Feather, author, The Encyclopedia of Jazz

This remarkable achievement valuably synthesizes the existing information on Duke Ellington’s sensational career with the special resources now housed at the Smithsonian.”  --Stanley Dance, author, The World of Duke Ellington

Hasse’s account of how Ellington scraped, finagled, and suffered to keep his orchestra is one of the great pleasures of Beyond Category.”  --New York Newsday

“[Hasse] has written an excellent critical assessment of Duke’s astonishing bandleader productivity. . . .  The foreword by Wynton Marsalis is an insightful homage.” --Jazz Times

“Essential biographical guide to composer/bandleader Duke Ellington’s music, analyzing its development year by year with sidebar essays on the best recordings. . . .  Brilliantly written.”  --Kirkus Reviews

“His grasp of Ellington and his music is first rate, and his discographical essays, grouped by period throughout the book, are a godsend.” --Booklist


Copyright  2011 by John Edward Hasse.  All rights reserved.