It's hard to imagine a musical image more divine than Duke Ellington holding forth on his art in a robe, taking a rest backstage with his feet up and a towel over his eyes. That's the kind of moment on display in Love You Madly, a 1965 television documentary that surveys the great jazz composer from a loving, quizzical distance.
Less an overview than a fleeting chance to hang out with Ellington in the twilight of his career, the film scatters live footagemost of it from a small San Francisco clubwith bits of conversation in which Ellington says a lot and a little at the same time. He plays the debonair aesthete, happy to let his mystical air breathe deep, but he also thinks through some of his working process without sounding like he knows exactly what to say. On his role as a big-band composer: "Personalized arranging is about arranging with all of the better characteristics of the performer in mind, with a deep consideration for the limitations of each one. Limitations are wonderful things. Everybody should have them." That's Ellington: thoughtful, contemplative, wry, pragmatic, ethereal.
The musical manifestation of all that comes out in another feature packaged on DVD with Love You Madly: A Concert Of Sacred Music At Grace Cathedral, a 1965 documentary about a concert to consecrate San Francisco's grand Grace Cathedral. Ellington called it "the most important statement I've ever made," and his personal investment shows in a set given to various career highpoints. It's mostly just performance footage, but the way Ellington movesnot to mention the cool sight of an accompanying tap dancergives form to the way spirit and swing commingle.