Duke Ellington

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Ellington, Duke

(Edward Kennedy Ellington), 1899–1974, American jazz musician and composer, b. Washington, D.C. Ellington made his first professional appearance as a jazz pianist in 1916. By 1918 he had formed a band, and after appearances in nightclubs in Harlem he became one of the most famous figures in American jazz. Ellington's orchestra played compositions and arrangements, some by hime alone, many by or in collaboration with Billy StrayhornStrayhorn, Billy
(William Thomas Strayhorn), 1915–67, African-American jazz composer, arranger, lyricist, and pianist, b. Dayton, Ohio. Classically trained, he was drawn to jazz, and early in his career composed a number of songs.
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, and others written by Ellington and other members of his band (but often not credited to them). He achieved a fine unity of style, based in blues, but elegant and tonal, and made many innovations in the jazz idiom. Many instrumental virtuosos worked closely with Ellington for long periods of time. Among his best-known short works are "Mood Indigo," "Solitude," and "Sophisticated Lady." He also wrote jazz works of complex orchestration and ambitious scope for concert presentation, notably Creole Rhapsody (1932), Black, Brown and Beige (1943), Liberian Suite (1947), Harlem (1951), and Night Creatures (1955), and composed religious music, including three sacred concerts (1965, 1968, and 1973). Ellington made many tours of Europe, appeared in numerous jazz festivals and several films, and made hundreds of recordings. In 1969 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


See his memoir, Music Is My Mistress (1973); M. Tucker, ed., The Duke Ellington Reader (1993); M. Ellington (his son) and S. Dance, Duke Ellington in Person (1978); biographies by B. Ulanov (1946, repr. 1976), J. L. Collier (1989), M. Tucker (1991), J. E. Hass (1993), A. H. Lawrence (2001), and T. Teachout (2013); S. Dance, The World of Duke Ellington (1970); H. G. Cohen, Duke Ellington's America (2010).

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Ellington, (Edward Kennedy) Duke

(1899–1974) composer, orchestra conductor, jazz musician; born in Washington, D.C. Raised in a moderately well-to-do family, his father being a White House butler and later a blueprint-maker for the U.S. Navy, he studied piano and painting from age six and acquired his nickname from a boyhood friend. He began subbing for ragtime pianist Lester Dishman at a Washington cafe in 1914, and while there he wrote his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag." He won a poster design contest sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1917; this prompted him to leave high school before graduation to operate his own sign-painting business, but a year later he declined a scholarship from the Pratt Institute (Brooklyn) and devoted himself exclusively to music. He first established his name in Washington by supplying bands for parties and dances and as a sideman in others' bands. In 1923 he and hometown associates Sonny Greer and Otto Hardwick moved to New York City and began working as "the Washingtonians." Ellington assumed leadership of the ensemble, which in 1924 made its first recordings and began a three-year residency at a Broadway speakeasy. In 1925 he wrote the score for the Chocolate Kiddies, a revue that ran for two years in Germany. He also began to attract significant sidemen to his band, including such colorful, blues-oriented players as Johnny Hodges and Cootie Williams; they helped form Ellington's signature style and propel his output as a composer. In December 1927 the Duke Ellington Orchestra made its decisive opening at the Cotton Club, the showplace of Harlem speakeasies; his composing flourished there and he remained in residency until 1932. By this time, through radio broadcasts and many recordings for U.S., English, and French labels, he was internationally renowned as the foremost jazz composer and bandleader. In 1930 he performed with his orchestra in the Amos and Andy movie, Check and Double Check, the first of many such movie appearances. In 1933 he led his 14-piece band on its first tour of England and Europe, and for the next 40 years he maintained a near-constant touring schedule, broken only by perennial residencies at clubs in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, and Paris. Between 1930 and 1942, Ellington was at his most creative, composing a series of pieces that highlighted the distinct musical personalities of his loyal sidemen. In 1938 he hired composer-arranger Billy Strayhorn, an essential collaborator whose 1941 composition "Take the "A' Train" served thereafter as the band's theme. During this period Ellington also produced several of his most enduring works, including "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," "In a Sentimental Mood," and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore." In 1943 he introduced his celebrated extended work, Black, Brown, and Beige, at Carnegie Hall, where he premiered other ambitious works at annual concerts through 1948. During the early 1950s Ellington was virtually alone among jazz orchestra leaders in keeping his band intact, though he suffered several key personnel changes and a reduction in the quality of his bookings. In 1955 Johnny Hodges rejoined the band after a four-year absence and during the next five years Ellington's popularity underwent a dramatic renewal, encouraged by a successful appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956, the recording of which became his biggest-selling album. In 1959 his soundtrack for Anatomy of a Murder was the first commissioned from an African-American composer for a major Hollywood movie. His overseas tours in the 1960s and 1970s inspired several large-scale suites, and in his final decade he also wrote liturgical music for concerts he presented in cathedrals in the U.S.A., England, and Germany. Increasingly recognized as a major American composer, he received numerous honorary degrees and awards after 1963, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969. In 1971 he became the first jazz musician inducted into the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm, Sweden. His autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, was published in 1973. He led his band until a couple of months before his death from cancer, when it was taken over by his son, Mercer Ellington.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
References in periodicals archive ?
Duke Ellington Studies is a welcome addition to Ellington scholarship, consisting of some well-researched articles that contain a wealth of information.
Duke Ellington's America is the first biography to make extensive use of a collection of Ellington's personal and professional records housed at the Smithsonian Institution.
Duke Ellington as Pianist is a fitting tribute to Ellington as a piano performer.
For an inside look at Duke Ellington - history, habits, methods of working, the images and ideas behind his best songs and detailed anecdotes of the way he comported himself as he crisscrossed the still segregated United States to perform - Boyer's trilogy is a grand piece.
A fascinating piece called Air Conditioned Jungle, which American jazz clarinetist Jimmy Hamilton composed with Duke Ellington, was one of the highlights of the evening, demonstrating just what a thoughtful and gifted player Long is.
Herbie Hancock is the voice of Duke Ellington.The album might be mostly 50-year-old music but it is interpreted in a thoroughly 21st- century manner and the arrangements are subtle but effective.
HERMAN Leonard captured the jazz age with his smoky, backlit black-and-white photographs of Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra.
ABU DHABI, UAEAuAbu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) presented two inspiring performances by Duke Ellington Big Band, one of AmericaAAEs most celebrated jazz bands, in Al-Ain and in Abu Dhabi on May 23 and May 25 respectively.
Music fans can take a special trip down memory lane on Thursday when the Duke Ellington Big Band hits the Palladium.
Abu Dhabi The American Community School was filled with the sounds of American jazz and blues as members of the Duke Ellington Big Band brought to life many of the iconic composer and musician's much-loved songs on Tuesday.
April 29 was declared Duke Ellington Day in New York City last year, and Duke Ellington's granddaughter, Mercedes Ellington, is determined to use the annual occasion as an opportunity to highlight the importance of music and arts programs in schools.
BIRMINGHAM-born soul diva Jaki Graham joins the BBC Big Band at her home city's Town Hall tonight for Duke Ellington's Sounds of Harlem.

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