Duke Ellington

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Posted by bender 05/02/2009 @ 16:10

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News headlines
Ill. ballroom that hosted big-name acts burns - Chicago Tribune
AP EDELSTEIN, Ill. - A more than 70-year-old central Illinois ballroom where Duke Ellington and Lawrence Welk played has been destroyed by fire. The Hub ballroom burned to the ground early Wednesday in Edelstein, which is about 15 miles north of Peoria...
5th Annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival Honors Beloved Musician - Voice of America
By Doug Levine Jazz great Duke Ellington once said, "If it sounds good and feels good then it is good." Washington, DC's premier jazz festival, named in Duke's honor, promises all of the above and more. The Duke Ellington Jazz Festival celebrated its...
Gary Bogue: Fox squirrels: Can they really dig a cool saxophone solo? - San Jose Mercury News
They were in the coast redwood and fruitless mulberry trees above my backyard while I sat out BBQing and listening to a CD recording of John Coltrane on saxophone and Duke Ellington on piano. The squirrels raised quite a ruckus as they were crossing...
Luciano: For some, the Hub was the place to be - Peoria Journal Star
Quickly, business boomed to the point the Hub could lure the biggest of the big bands: Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo. “All of 'em were there,” Everly says, her voice spiking with excitement....
Jazz history: the photography of Herman Leonard - Tampabay.com
(AP Photo/Herman Leonard Photography, LLC., CTSIMAGES) 1958: Duke Ellington plays the piano at the Olympia Theater in Paris. Leonard recalls that when he poked his camera through the curtain backstage he was happily surprised to find Ellington "bathed...
76ers looking for top guard in draft - USA Today
Wayne Ellington. Another Tar Heel, the 6-5, 202-pound Ellington was the most outstanding player of the Final Four and would be a nice fit in the uptempo game. Like Lawson, he'd need to improve his defense to be more of a contributor....
Jazz Pianist Ellis Marsalis Honored at Duke Ellington Jazz ... - Washington Informer
Photo by Roy Lewis The patriarch of New Orleans' most well known jazz family was honored during a sold-out concert at the John F. Kennedy Center this week that culminated the Fifth Annual Duke Ellington Jazz Festival. Educator, composer, and musician,...
Nothing but praise for Much Ado - Terre Haute Tribune Star
Singing and dancing as would be done in a 1930's movie — with 8 songs of the time including the Gershwins, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington. This just made an enjoyable evening. This was not in your classical Shakespearean style but presented in easy,...
'Jazz cafe' raises £600 for charity - Devon 24
A capacity audience of 120 at Lympstone Village hall sat around tables and enjoyed a jazz-café atmosphere and the music of Duke Ellington to raise the money for Exmouth and Lympstone Hospiscare. They listened to many of the great man's most popular...
Duke Ellington Jazz Festival - Washington Post
The Duke Ellington Jazz Festival begins today and runs through June 15. A few of the many highlights include: -- Afro Blue tonight at the Sculpture Garden, National Gallery of Art. 5 pm Free. -- Drummer and composer Nasar Abadey's symposium Sunday at 5...

Duke Ellington

Left: Duke Ellington circa 1950

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and bandleader.

Duke Ellington was known in his life as one of the most influential figures in jazz, if not in all American music. His reputation increased when he died including a special award citation from the Pulitzer Prize Board.

Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category." These included many of the musicians who served with his orchestra, some of whom were considered among the giants of jazz and performed with Ellington's orchestra for decades. While many were noteworthy in their own right, it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known orchestral units in the history of jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges, "Concerto for Cootie" ("Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me") for Cootie Williams and "The Mooche" for Tricky Sam Nanton. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol's "Caravan" and "Perdido" which brought the "Spanish Tinge" to big-band jazz. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn, whom he called his alter-ego.

One of the 20th century's best-known artists, Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films. Ellington and his orchestra toured the United States and Europe regularly before and after World War II. Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974.

His son Mercer Ellington took over the band until his death from cancer in 1996. Paul Ellington, Mercer's youngest son, took over the Orchestra from there and after his mother's passing took over the Estate of Duke and Mercer Ellington.

Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington. They lived with his maternal grandparents at 2129 Ward Place, NW in Washington, D.C. James Edward Ellington was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina on April 15, 1879 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1886 with his parents. Daisy Kennedy, was born in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 1879, and was the daughter of a former American slave. J.E. made blueprints for the United States Navy. He also worked as a butler for Dr. Middleton F. Cuthbert, a prominent white physician, and occasionally worked as a White House caterer. Daisy and J.E. were both piano players—she playing parlor songs and he operatic airs.

Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more concerned with baseball. "President Roosevelt (Teddy) would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play," he recalled. Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. He got his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators’ baseball games where he conquered his stage fright.

In the summer of 1914, while working as a soda jerk at the Poodle Dog Café, he wrote his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag" (also known as the "Poodle Dog Rag"). Ellington created "Soda Fountain Rag" by ear, because he had not yet learned to read and write music. "I would play the 'Soda Fountain Rag' as a one-step, two-step, waltz, tango, and fox trot," Ellington has recalled. "Listeners never knew it was the same piece. I was established as having my own repertoire." In his autobiography, Music is my Mistress, (1973) Ellington comments he missed more lessons than he attended, feeling at the time that playing the piano was not his talent. Over time, this would change. Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday's Poolroom at age fourteen. Hearing the poolroom pianists play ignited Ellington's love for the instrument and he began to take his piano studies seriously.

Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in Washington, D.C., but also in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer months. Dunbar High School music teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony. With the additional guidance of Washington pianist and band leader Oliver "Doc" Perry, Ellington learned to read sheet music, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington was also inspired by his first encounters with James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts, early jazz piano giants. Later in New York he took advice from Will Marion Cook, Fats Waller, and Sidney Bechet. Ellington started to play gigs in cafés and clubs in and around Washington, D.C. and began to realize his love for music. His attachment grew to be so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1916. He dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art, just three months shy of graduation.

From 1917 through 1919, Ellington launched his musical career, painting commercial signs by day and playing piano by night. Duke's entrepreneurial side came out when if a customer would ask him to make a sign for a dance or party, he would ask them if they had musical entertainment, if not Ellington would ask if he could play for them. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State Departments. Ellington moved out of his parents' home and into one which he bought for himself as he became a successful ragtime, jazz, and society pianist. At first, he played in other ensembles, and in late 1917 formed his first group, "The Duke’s Serenaders" ("Colored Syncopators", his telephone directory advertising proclaimed). He was not only a member, but also the booking agent. His first play date was at the True Reformer's Hall where he took home 75 cents.

Ellington played throughout the Washington, D.C. area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. The band included Otto Hardwick, who switched from bass to saxophone; Arthur Whetsol on trumpet; Elmer Snowden on banjo; and Sonny Greer on drums. The band thrived, performing for both African-American and white audiences, a rarity during the racially divided times.

With his career taking off, Ellington felt secure enough to marry his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918 when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington, who went on to play trumpet, lead his own band and work as the road manager of his father's band, eventually taking it over after Duke's death. He was an important archivist of his father's musical life. Ellington's sister, Ruth, later ran Tempo Music, Ellington' music publishing company.

Ellington's granddaughter Mercedes is a dancer who has performed in network television productions. Grandson Paul Ellington is a pianist and composer who now leads the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

When his drummer Sonny Greer was invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New York City, Ellington made the fateful decision to leave behind his successful career in Washington, D.C. and aspire to the challenge of Harlem. The 'Harlem Renaissance' was in progress. New dance crazes, like the Charleston, were bred there as well as African-American musical theater, including Eubie Blake's Shuffle Along. After the young musicians left the Sweatman Orchestra to strike out on their own, they found an emerging jazz scene that was highly competitive and hard to crack. They hustled pool by day and played whatever gig they could find. The young band met Willie "The Lion" Smith who showed them the scene and even gave them spare cash. They played at rent-house parties to get by. After a few months, the young musicians returned to Washington, D.C. feeling discouraged.

But in June 1923, a gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey led to a play date at the prestigious Exclusive Club in Harlem, followed in September 1923 by a move to the Hollywood Club, 49th and Broadway, and a four-year engagement which gave Ellington a solid artistic base. The group was called Elmer Snowden and his Black Sox Orchestra and had seven members, including James "Bubber" Miley, a trumpeter whose growling style changed the "sweet" dance band sound of the group to one that was edgier and hotter. They renamed themselves "The Washingtonians". When Snowden left the group in early 1924, Ellington took over as bandleader. After a fire, the club was re-opened as the Club Kentucky (often referred to as the "Kentucky Club"), an engagement which set the stage for the biggest opportunities in Ellington's life.

Ellington made eight records in 1924, receiving composing credit on three including Choo Choo. In 1925, Ellington contributed four songs to Chocolate Kiddies, an all-African-American revue which introduced European audiences to African-American styles and performers. "Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra" grew to a ten-piece organization, developing their distinct sound, displaying the non-traditional expression of Ellington’s arrangements, the street rhythms of Harlem, and the exotic-sounding trombone growls and wah-wahs, high-squealing trumpets, and sultry saxophone blues licks of the band members. For a short time, the great soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet played with the group, imparting his propulsive swing and superior musicianship on the young band members. This helped attract the attention of some of the biggest names of jazz, including Paul Whiteman.

In 1927, King Oliver turned down a regular booking for his group as the house band at Harlem's Cotton Club; the offer passed to Ellington. With a weekly radio broadcast and famous clientèle nightly pouring in to see them, Ellington and his band thrived in the period from 1932 to 1942, a "golden age" for the poor boys from Washington D.C.

Trumpeter Bubber Miley was a member of the orchestra for only a short period but had a major influence on Ellington's sound. An early experimenter in jazz trumpet growling, Miley is credited with morphing the band's style from rigid dance instrumentation to a growling 'jungle' style. He also composed most of "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Creole Love Call". An alcoholic, Miley had to leave the band before they gained wider fame. He died in 1932 at the age of twenty-nine. He was an important influence on Cootie Williams, who replaced him.

In 1927 Ellington made a career-advancing agreement with agent-publisher Irving Mills giving Mills a 45% interest in Ellington's future. The brash, shrewd Mills had an eye for new talent and early on published compositions by Hoagy Carmichael, Dorothy Fields, and Harold Arlen. During the 1930s, Ellington's popularity continued to increase, largely as a result of the promotional skills of Mills, who got more than his fair share of co-composer credits. Mills arranged recording sessions on the Brunswick, Victor, and Columbia labels which gave Ellington popular recognition. Mills took the management burden off of Ellington's shoulders, allowing him to focus on his band's sound and his compositions. Ellington ended his association with Mills in 1937, although he continued to record under Mills' banner through 1940.

At the Cotton Club, Ellington's group performed all the music for the revues, which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, hot music, and illegal alcohol. The musical numbers were composed by Jimmy McHugh and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields (later Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler), with some Ellington originals mixed in. Weekly radio broadcasts from the club gave Ellington national exposure. In 1929, Ellington appeared in his first movie, a nineteen-minute all-African-American RKO short, Black and Tan, in which he played the hero "Duke". In the same year, The Cotton Club Orchestra appeared on stage for several months in Florenz Ziegfeld's Show Girl, along with vaudeville stars Jimmy Durante, Eddie Foy, Jr., Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, and with music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Gus Kahn. That feverish period also included numerous recordings, under the pseudonyms "Whoopee Makers", "The Jungle Band", "Harlem Footwarmers", and the "Ten Black Berries". In 1930, Ellington and his Orchestra connected with a whole different audience in a concert with Maurice Chevalier and they also performed at the Roseland Ballroom, "America's foremost ballroom". Noted composer Percy Grainger was also an early admirer and supporter.

In 1929, when Ellington conducted the orchestra for Show Girl, he met Will Vodery, Ziegfeld’s musical supervisor. In his 1946 biography, Duke Ellington, Barry Ulanov wrote: “From Vodery, as he (Ellington) says himself, he drew his chromatic convictions, his uses of the tones ordinarily extraneous to the diatonic scale, with the consequent alteration of the harmonic character of his music, its broadening, The deepening of his resources. It has become customary to ascribe the classical influences upon Duke - Delius and Debussy and Ravel - to direct contact with their music. Actually his serious appreciation of those and other modern composers, came after his meeting with Vodery.” Ulanov, Barry. Duke Ellington, Creative Age Press, 1946.

As the Depression deepened, the recording industry took a dive, dropping over 90% by 1933. Ellington and his orchestra survived the hard times by taking to the road in a series of tours. Radio exposure also helped maintain his popularity. Ivie Anderson was hired as their vocalist (Sonny Greer had been providing occasional vocals). Normally, Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton. As a bandleader, Ellington was not a strict disciplinarian but he maintained control of his orchestra for decades to come with a crafty combination of charm, humor, flattery, and astute psychology. A complex, private person, he revealed his feelings to only his closest intimates and effectively used his public persona to deflect attention away from himself.

While their United States audience remained mainly African-American in this period, the Cotton Club had a near exclusive white clientèle and the band had a huge following overseas, demonstrated both in a trip to England in 1933 and a 1934 visit to the European mainland. The English visit saw Ellington win praise from members of the "serious" music community, including composer Constant Lambert, which gave a boost to his aspirations to compose longer "serious" pieces. And for agent Mills, it was a publicity triumph, as Ellington was now "internationally famous". On their tour through the segregated South in 1934, they avoided some of the traveling difficulties of African-American musicians by touring in private railcars, which provided easy accommodations, dining, and storage for equipment, while avoiding the indignities of segregated facilities.

The death of Ellington's mother in 1935 led to a temporary slump in his career. Competition was also intensifying, as African-American and white "Swing Bands" began to rocket to popular attention, including those of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey, Jimmie Lunceford, Benny Carter, Earl Hines, Chick Webb, and Count Basie. Swing dancing became a youth phenomenon, particularly with white college audiences, and "danceability" drove record sales and bookings. Jukeboxes proliferated nationwide spreading the gospel of "swing". Ellington band could certainly "swing" with the best of them, but Ellington's strength was mood and nuance, and richness of composition, hence his statement "jazz is music; swing is business". The challenge for Ellington at that time was to create a workable balance between his ceaseless artistic exploration and the popular requirements of that era. Ellington countered with two innovations. He made recordings for smaller groups (sextets, octets, and nonets) drawn from his then 15-man orchestra and he composed pieces that were concerto-like and focused on a specific instrumentalist, as with Jeep's Blues for Johnny Hodges and Yearning for Love with Lawrence Brown.

In 1937, Ellington returned to the Cotton Club which had relocated to the mid-town theater district. In the summer of that year, his father died, and due to many expenses Ellington's financial condition was tight. Things improved in 1938 and he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice "Evie" Ellis. After splitting with agent Irving Mills, he signed on with William Morris. The 1930s ended with a very successful European tour just as World War II loomed.

Ellington delivered some huge hits during the 1930s, which greatly helped to build his overall reputation "Mood Indigo" in 1930, "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" in 1932, "Sophisticated Lady" in 1933, "In a Sentimental Mood" in 1935, "Caravan" in 1937, "I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart" in 1938. Following shortly were "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" in 1940 and "Take the "A" Train" (written by Billy Strayhorn) in 1941.

The most important event of Ellington’s “golden age” was the arrival of Billy Strayhorn. Hired as a lyricist, Strayhorn , nicknamed "Swee' Pea" for his mild manner, eventually became a vital member of the Ellington Organization and as Ellington described him, "my right arm, my left arm, all the eyes in the back of my head, my brain waves in his head, and his in mine". Strayhorn, with his Classical music training, applied that knowledge to arrange and polish future Ellington works. Ellington came to rely on Strayhorn's harmonic judgment, discipline, and taste.

The band reached a creative peak in the early 1940s, when Ellington wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices and displayed tremendous creativity. In November 1943 Ellington debuted Black, Brown and Beige in Carnegie Hall which told the struggle of African-Americans, and began a series of concerts ideally suited to displaying Ellington's longer works. While some jazz musicians had played at Carnegie Hall before, few had performed anything as elaborate as Ellington’s work. Some of the musicians created a sensation in their own right. The short-lived Jimmy Blanton transformed the use of double bass in jazz, allowing it to function as a solo rather than a rhythm instrument alone. Ben Webster too, the Orchestra's first regular tenor saxophonist, started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra's foremost voice in the sax section. Ray Nance joined, replacing Cootie Williams who had "defected", contemporary wags claimed, to Benny Goodman. Nance, however, added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal. A privately made recording of Nance's first concert date, at Fargo, North Dakota, in November 1940, is probably the most effective display of the band at the peak of its powers during this period. This recording is one of the first of innumerable live performances which survive, made by enthusiasts or broadcasters, significantly expanding the Ducal discography as a result.

Three-minute masterpieces flowed from the minds of Ellington, Billy Strayhorn (from 1939), Ellington's son Mercer Ellington, and members of the Orchestra. "Cotton Tail", "Main Stem", "Harlem Airshaft", "Streets of New York" and dozens of others date from this period.

Ellington's long-term aim became to extend the jazz form from the three-minute limit of the 78 rpm record side, of which he was an acknowledged master. He had composed and recorded Creole Rhapsody as early as 1931, and his tribute to his mother, "Reminiscing in Tempo," had filled four 10" record sides in 1935; however, it was not until the 1940s that this became a regular feature of Ellington's work. In this, he was helped by Strayhorn, who had enjoyed a more thorough training in the forms associated with classical music than Ellington. The first of these, "Black, Brown, and Beige" (1943), was dedicated to telling the story of African-Americans, the place of slavery, and the church in their history. Unfortunately, starting a regular pattern, Ellington's longer works were generally not well-received; Jump for Joy, an earlier musical, closed after only six performances in 1941.

The first recording ban of 1942-3 had a serious effect on all the big bands because of the resulting increase in royalty payments to musicians. The financial viability of Ellington's Orchestra came under threat, though Ellington's income as a songwriter ultimately subsidized it. Ellington always spent lavishly and although he drew a respectable income from the Orchestra's operations, the band's income often just covered expenses.

Meanwhile, the development of modern jazz, or bebop, the music industry's shift to solo vocalists such as the young Frank Sinatra as the Big Band age died out, and the diminishing popularity of ballroom and nightclub entertainment in the early television era all undermined Ellington's popularity and status as a trendsetter. Bebop rebelled against commercial jazz, dance jazz, and strict forms to become the music of jazz aficionados. Furthermore, by 1950 the emerging African-American popular music style known as Rhythm and Blues drew away the young African-American audience and soon Rock & Roll followed. In the face of these major social shifts, Ellington continued on his own course, but major defections soon affected his Orchestra and he started to retire earlier works composed for now departed members. For a time though Ellington continued to turn out major works, such as the Kay Davis vocal feature Transblucency and major extended compositions such as Harlem (1950), whose score he presented to music-loving President Harry Truman.

In 1951, Ellington suffered a major loss of personnel, with Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and most significantly, Johnny Hodges leaving to pursue other ventures. Lacking overseas opportunities and motion picture appearances, Ellington Orchestra survived on "one-nighters" and whatever else came their way, even six weeks in the summer of 1955 as the band for the Aquacade in Flushing, New York, where Ellington is supposed to have "invented" a drink known as "The Tornado," the only alcoholic concoction that features his signature Coca Cola and sugar. Even though he made many television appearances, Ellington's hope that television would provide a significant new venue for his type of jazz did not pan out. The introduction of the 33 1/3 rpm LP record and hi-fi phonograph did give new life to older compositions. However by 1955, after ten years of recording for Capitol, Ellington no longer had a regular recording affiliation.

Ellington's appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956 returned him to wider prominence and exposed him to new audiences. The feature "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue", with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves's six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band's book since 1937, but on this occasion it nearly created a riot. The revived attention should not have surprised anyone — Hodges had returned to the fold the previous year, and Ellington's collaboration with Strayhorn had been renewed around the same time, under terms amenable to the younger man. Such Sweet Thunder (1957), based on Shakespeare's plays and characters, and The Queen's Suite the following year (dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II), were products of the renewed impetus which the Newport appearance had helped to create.

A new record contract with Columbia produced Ellington's best-selling LP Ellington at Newport and yielded six years of recording stability under producer Irving Townsend, who coaxed both commercial and artistic productions from Ellington. In 1957, CBS (Columbia's parent corporation) aired a live television production of A Drum Is a Woman, an allegorical suite which received mixed reviews. Other festivals at Monterey and elsewhere provided new venues for live exposure, and a European tour in 1958 was wildly received. After a 25-year gap, Ellington and Strayhorn again wrote film scores, this time for Anatomy of a Murder and Paris Blues. Despite some personnel turnover, in 1960 Ellington still possessed a seasoned corps with Carney, Hodges, Williams, Brown, Nance, Hamilton, Procope, Anderson, and Gonsalves. Ellington and Strayhorn, always looking for new musical territory, produced adaptations of John Steinbeck's novel Sweet Thursday, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt. The late 1950s also saw Ella Fitzgerald record her Duke Ellington Songbook with Ellington and his orchestra—a recognition that Ellington's songs had now become part of the cultural canon known as the "Great American Songbook".

Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1965, but was turned down. His reaction at 67 years old: "Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be famous too young." He performed the first of his Sacred Concerts‎, an attempt at fusing Christian liturgy with jazz, in September of the same year, and even though it received mixed reviews, Ellington was enormously proud of the composition and performed it dozens of times. This concert was followed by two others of the same type in 1968 and 1973, called the Second and Third Sacred Concerts, respectively. This caused enormous controversy in what was already a tumultuous time in the United States. Many saw the Sacred Music suites as an attempt to reinforce commercial support for organized religion, though Ellington simply said it was, "the most important thing I've done." The piano upon which the Sacred Concerts were composed is part of the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Like Haydn and Mozart, Ellington conducted his orchestra from the piano - he always played the keyboard parts when the Sacred Concerts were performed.

Though his later work is overshadowed by his music of the early 1940s, Ellington continued to make vital and innovative recordings, including The Far East Suite (1966), "The New Orleans Suite" (1970), and "The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse" (1971), much of it inspired by his world tours. It was during this time that Ellington recorded his only album with Frank Sinatra, entitled Francis A. & Edward K..

Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, and the Legion of Honor by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country. He died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City. At his funeral attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, "It's a very sad day. A genius has passed." Mercer Ellington picked up the reins of the orchestra immediately after Duke's death.

Ellington's film work began in 1929 with the short film Black and Tan Fantasy. His Symphony In Black, which introduced Billie Holiday, was performed on film in 1935, winning an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. He also appeared in the 1930 Amos 'n' Andy film Check and Double Check. He and his Orchestra continued to appear in films throughout the 1930s and 1940s, both in short films and in features such as Murder at the Vanities, and Belle Of The Nineties, (1934), and Cabin In The Sky (1943). In the late 1950s, his work in films took the shape of scoring for soundtracks, notably Anatomy of a Murder (1959), with James Stewart, in which he appeared fronting a roadhouse combo, and Paris Blues, (1961), which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians.

He wrote an original score for Shakespeare's Timon of Athens that was first used in the Stratford Festival production that opened July 29, 1963 for director Michael Langham, who has used it for several subsequent productions, most recently in an adaptation by Stanley Silverman that expands on the score with some of Ellington's best-known works.

Ellington composed the score for the musical "Jump For Joy," which was performed in Los Angeles in 1941. Ellington's sole book musical, Beggar's Holiday, was staged on Broadway in 1946. Sophisticated Ladies, an award-winning 1981 musical revue, incorporated many of the tunes he made famous.

Numerous memorials have been dedicated to Duke Ellington, in cities from New York and Washington, DC to Los Angeles.

In Ellington's birthplace of Washington, D.C., there is a school dedicated to his honor and memory as well as one of the bridges over Rock Creek Park. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts educates talented students, who are considering careers in the arts, by providing intensive arts instruction and strong academic programs that prepare students for post-secondary education and professional careers. The Calvert Street Bridge was renamed the Duke Ellington Bridge; built in 1935, it connects Woodley Park to Adams Morgan.

Ellington lived for years in a townhouse on the corner of Manhattan's Riverside Drive and West 106th Street. After his death, West 106th Street was officially renamed Duke Ellington Boulevard. A large memorial to Ellington, created by sculptor Robert Graham, was dedicated in 1997 in New York's Central Park, near Fifth Avenue and 110th Street, an intersection named Duke Ellington Circle.

Although he made two more stage appearances before his death, Ellington performed what is considered his final "full" concert in a ballroom at Northern Illinois University on March 20, 1974. The hall was renamed the Duke Ellington Ballroom in 1980.

A statue of Ellington at a piano is featured at the entrance to UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. According to UCLA magazine, "When UCLA students were entranced by Duke Ellington's provocative tunes at a Culver City club in 1937, they asked the budding musical great to play a free concert in Royce Hall. "I've been waiting for someone to ask us!" Ellington exclaimed.

He is of only five jazz musicians ever to have been featured on the cover of Time (the other four being Louis Armstrong, Thelonious Monk, Wynton Marsalis, and Dave Brubeck).

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Duke Ellington on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans.

Ellington earned 13 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000, nine while he was alive.

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Thelonious Monk Plays the Music of Duke Ellington

Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington cover

Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington is a 1955 album by Thelonious Monk, comprising his recordings of well-known songs by Duke Ellington. It was Monk's first album to be released by Riverside Records. Playing with Monk are bassist Oscar Pettiford and drummer Kenny Clarke.

The concept of the album was the result of a compromise between Monk and his new label. Although Monk occasionally performed covers, he primarily played his own compositions and he had recorded several albums of originals during 1953-54 for his previous label Prestige Records. However there was a perception (particularly among music critics) that Monk's own music was "too difficult" for the mainstream record-buying public, and his Prestige albums sold poorly.

After buying out Monk's contract for just over $100, Riverside convinced Monk to record an entire album of Ellington tunes. Monk Plays Ellington was followed by another album of standards by other composers, The Unique Thelonious Monk. Both albums were well received by critics, although they sold only moderately, and ironically it was his third Riverside LP Brilliant Corners, featuring all original material, which became both a commercial and critical success.

The choice of Ellington as the 'theme' composer was evidently made by producer Orrin Keepnews and the Riverside label, but it was nevertheless significant. Ellington was (and is) arugably the most important American jazz composer of his generation and alongside Louis Armstrong and Count Basie, he had been one of the most popular and successful performers and recording artists of the Thirties and Forties.

However, by the mid-Fifties Ellington's star had waned considerably -- swing music was considered passé, and the small-group genres of bebop and cool jazz were in the ascendant. Indeed, at the time the Monk album was released, Ellington had been dropped by his former label, Capitol Records and he was struggling to keep his Orchestra together (although he would return to prominence the following year with the Orchestra's legendary performance at the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival).

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Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Duke Ellington School for the Arts in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a high school located in Washington, D.C. dedicated to arts education. One of the high schools of the District of Columbia Public School system, it is named for the American jazz bandleader and composer Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (1899–1974), himself a native of Washington, D.C.

Graduates of the school earn both an artistic and academic diploma. In addition to completing the traditional public school curriculum, students must audition for and complete studies in one of the following artistic areas: dance, literary media, museum studies, instrumental music, vocal music, theater, and visual arts.

The school developed from the collaborative efforts of Peggy Cooper Cafritz, long-time a member of the D.C. School Board of DCPS and Mike Malone, a veteran of Broadway, off-Broadway, and classical dancer, who were co-founders of Workshops for Careers in the Arts in 1968. In 1974 this workshop program developed into the Duke Ellington School of the Arts at Western High School, an accredited four-year public high school program combining arts and academics.

Ellington currently serves approximately 500 students in grades 9-12. The academic faculty is fully credentialed and includes seven Fulbright Scholars, award-winning writers and musicians, various Ph.D's, and DCPS's only National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in Young Adulthood English/Language Arts.

Ranked as one of D. C. Public Schools' top high schools, Ellington's curriculum requires students earn 34% more credits than those at other D. C. public high schools. Students must maintain a minimum grade point average in both academics and the arts to be permitted to perform and, ultimately, to stay enrolled at Ellington. The school has a 99% on-time graduation rate.

Ellington is the place for aspiring young artists to refine their skills in one of eight pre-professional disciplines, including Dance, Literary Media, Museum Studies, Instrumental or Vocal Music, Theater, Technical Theater, and Visual Arts.

One of the many things the school is recognized for is the world renowned Duke Ellington Show Choir. This choir has traveled to Europe, the Virgin Islands, Asia, Hawaii, and throughout the U.S. The show choir has won numerous awards for their performances. The creator of this choir is Samuel L. E. Bonds, a well known man of music who studied with Todd Duncan. He also is the director of the Duke Ellington Concert Choir, which consists of all voice majors at the high school grades 10-12. The show choir performs all types of music including Broadway, Gospel, Opera, Jazz, R&B, and much more. This choir is very famous for their production of Amahl and the Night Visitors, which they perform every year around Christmas.

The Show Choir allows great talented students to stand out solo wise. The students of the show choir have a grade point average of 2.8 and above. Though they have very hectic schedules, they still manage to stay on top of their academics. This choir has performed at the White House for President Bill Clinton, and President George W. Bush. They performed for Mayor Adrian Fenty's inauguration. They have also shared the stage with people such as Clay Aiken, Patti LaBelle, Jasmine Guy, Patti Austin, Beyonce Knowles, Boyz II Men, and Denyce Graves. They have performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and continue to choir perform year round, most recently at the We Are One Inaguratioin concert. They perform for churches and many other organizations. They sang The Star Spangled Banner for the opening of the Washington Nationals first baseball game. Ellington's Show Choir has been growing strong since 1986.

Over 95% of Ellington graduates are accepted into universities and conservatories each year. Ellington alum have studied at Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, The Juilliard School, Parsons School of Design, Pratt Institute, Berklee College of Music, and Howard University, among other institutions.

In order to be admitted into Ellington, students must complete an admissions application, audition before a panel, provide academic and attendance records, two letters of recommendations and complete an interview.

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Source : Wikipedia