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Ellington, Duke 1899–1974

Duke Ellington 18991974

Pianist, bandleader, composer

At a Glance

A Late Bloomer

Formed His Own Band

Blew the Joint Away at Newport

The 1960s: Musician, Historian, Lecturer

Selected compositions

Selected discography

Sources

Duke Ellington was a distinctive and pivotal figure in the world of jazz. While many critics agree that his flair for style far exceeded his raw musical talent, few dispute the significance of his impact on the music scene in the United States and abroad. A prolific composer, Ellington created over two thousand pieces of music, including the standard songs It Dont Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing) and Sophisticated Lady and longer works like Black, Brown, and Beige and The Liberian Suite. With the variously named bands he led for more than fifty years, Ellington was responsible for many innovations in the jazz field, such as the introduction of jungle-style musical variations and the manipulation of the human voice as an instrumentsinging notes without words. During the course of his long career, Ellington was showered with many honors, including the highest civilian award granted by the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to him by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969. No one else in the history of jazz, concluded critic Alistair Cooke in a 1983 issue of Esquire, created so personal an orchestral sound and so continuously expanded the jazz idiom.

Born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C., on April 29,1899, Duke earned his nickname at an early age to suit his aristocratic demeanor. He was brought up in a cultured, middle-class household: his father made blueprints for the U.S. Navy and served as a White House butler for extra income, and his mother, who hailed from a respected Washington family, set a dignified tone for the family to follow. Ellingtons parents lived by the ideal of Victorian gentility until they died, noted James Lincoln Collier in Duke Ellington, and they raised Duke to it. The view that he was special was cut into Dukes consciousness when he was very young. [He] came into his teens, then, as a protected and well-loved child, growing up in an orderly household where decorous behavior was simply part of the air he breathed; he was confident in manner and sure that he had been born to high estate.

But Ellington matured at a time when attitudes and values were changing in America. The Harlem Renaissancea period of heightened pride, interest, and activity in black arts and culturewas beginning to dawn. Rigid self-discipline was cast aside, and people began to indulge in the satisfaction of a variety of earthly desires. This newfound freedom to enjoy good times, as Collier put it, had a profound influence on American music. The syncopated rhythms of ragtime, a wildly popular precursor of jazz that flourished in the late 1800s,

At a Glance

Born Edward Kennedy Ellington, April 29,1899, in Washington, DC; died of lung cancer, May 24, 1974, in New York City; son of James Edward (a butler, carpenter, and blueprint maker) and Daisy (Kennedy) Ellington; married Edna Thompson, July 2, 1918; children: Mercer. Education: Left high school in his senior year; later received honorary diploma.

Worked in a soda shop and as a sign painter, c. 191417; began playing in jazz bands, c. 1917; served as a U.S. Navy and State Department messenger during World War I; formed his first band, 1918; performed in Washington, DC and New York City during the 1920s; toured Europe in the 1930s; appeared many times at Newport Jazz Festival; concert performer and recording artist (primarily on Reprise and RCA labels) with his various bands until his death in 1974. Appeared in and/or wrote scores for films, including Check and Double Check 1930, Murder at the Vanities, 1934, Anatomy of a Murder, 1959, Paris Blues, 1961, and Assault on a Queen, 1966.

Selected awards: Spingarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 1959; Academy Award nomination for the score of Paris Blues, 1961; Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS), 1966; Grammy Awards in several categories, including jazz composition and jazz performancebig band, 1966,1967,1968,1971,1972,1976, and 1979; Presidential Medal of Freedom from Richard M. Nixon, 1969; inducted into NARAS Hall of Fame, 1990; elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

gave way in the early 1900s to the blues of the Mississippi Delta area. New Orleans, Louisiana is generally regarded as the hot spot in music history where ragtime, blues, and other forms coalesced, giving birth to jazz.

But, according to Collier, it was not until 1915, when a cadre of white musicians brought it to Chicago, that [jazz] made a significant splash. The stir it created there encouraged an entrepreneur to bring the Original Dixieland Jazz Band to New York, where it also made a hit [Their] records became best-sellers, and the jazz boom began. And so the 1920s came to be known as the Jazz Age. The independent-minded Ellington fell in love with the sounds of the time. Jazz is above all a total freedom to express oneself, he concluded, as quoted by Stanley Dance in Peter Gammonds Duke Ellington: His Life and Music.

A Late Bloomer

Both his father and his mother could play the piano, and Ellington was exposed to music at an early age. The Ellingtons were strongly religious and hoped that if their son learned piano he would later exchange it for the church organ, but at first he showed little interest in music. He proved to be an uncooperative student of his ironically named piano teacherMiss Clinkscalesand managed to wrangle his way out of lessons after just a few months.

As he grew older, Ellington became interested in drawing and painting. He won a prize from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a poster he created, and was eventually offered a scholarship to the prestigious Pratt Institute in Brooklyn to study commercial art. But a latent interest in music kept him from pursuing a career in art. According to some biographers, Ellingtons motivations to make it in the music world were far from pure: he apparently felt that he could earn more money as a bandleader than as an artist, and he noticed that pretty girls tended to flock around piano players.

Ellington lacked the self-discipline to engage in the formal study of the piano. However, he did begin to take the piano more seriously as a high school student, learning harmonies from his schools music teacher, Henry Grant. But Ellington never really learned to read music, and he could never play a musical selection for piano on demand. Ellingtons son, Mercer, was quoted in Colliers Duke Ellington as having said: The greater part of his knowledge was self-taught, by ear, and gradually acquired. Collier suggested that Dukes pride and stubbornness were at the root of his roundabout musical education. This was the hard way of doing it, but it was the way [he] preferred, even if it would take him more time and cost him more energy.

Despite his unorthodox training, Ellington achieved the power to leave an audience spellbound. In an essay dated September 1957 in Duke Ellington: His Life and Music, Hughues Panassié noted, Duke might not be one of the most agile or brilliant technicians of the keyboard, but what a great stylist he is! He [puts] so much of his own spirit into the band He is an outstanding creator who puts all that is humanly possible into the greatest of jazz orchestras.

Formed His Own Band

Around 1914, while working after school in a soda shop, Ellington wrote his first jazz song, Soda Fountain Rag. He later dropped out of school to pursue his musical career, playing in jazz bands by night and supplementing his income by painting signs during the day. Often he managed to persuade club owners to let him paint the signs announcing the groups engagement. Around the same time, Ellington married schoolmate Edna Thompson, who had become pregnant with their son, Mercer.

Influenced by the style of earlier jazz artist Doc Perry, Ellington continued to work on his piano playing and, after the end of World War I, formed his own band. Critics contend that it was his band, rather than his piano, that was his true instrument. He composed not so much with a particular instrument in mind, but rather thinking of the current band member who played that instrument, suiting the music to the style of the player. The turnover rate in Ellingtons band was not high, but due to the bands longevity many musicians and singers played with Ellington over the years, among them: saxophonists Toby Otto Hardwick, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, and Paul Gonsalves; trumpeters Artie Whetsol, Bubber Miley, and Cootie Williams; banjo players Elmer Snowden and Sterling Conaway; drummer Sonny William Greer; clarinet and sax player Barney Bigard; bass player Wellman Braud; trombonist Joe Nanton; vocalist Adelaide Hall; and pianist-composer Billy Strayhorn.

Ellington and his band, then known as the Washingtonians, began playing local clubs and parties in Washington, D.C., but during the early 1920s moved to New York City, where they secured steady work at the midtown Kentucky Club and, later, a three-year engagement at the popular Cotton Club. His notable compositions during this period included Black and Tan Fantasy and Love Creole, both of which became jazz standards.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Ellington branched out into writing musical revues, such as Chocolate Kiddies, a success in Germany; playing in Broadway musicals, such as Florenz Ziegfelds 1929 Show Girl; and appearing with his band in motion pictures, including the 1930 Amos and Andy feature Check and Double Check. Ellingtons 1931 long piece, titled Creole Rhapsody, offered confirmation of [his] emergence as a major composer, according to Collier. He soon added to the bands popularity with the legendary cuts It Dont Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing) and Sophisticated Lady.

Throughout the 1930s, Ellington also played the hot, primitive sounds of so-called jungle music and began experimenting with the infusion of Latin American elements into jazz. In 1939 Strayhorn joined Ellingtons band, beginning a composition partnership that would last until the formers death in 1967. Strayhorn is perhaps best known for writing the bands theme, Take the A Train. The bands horizons expanded geographically in the 1930s as wellEllington was well received on tours throughout the United States and in Europe.

In 1943 Ellington helped set up an annual jazz concert series at New York Citys Carnegie Hall that lasted until 1955. Ellington was deeply involved with it each year and used the event to premier new, longer works of jazz that he composed. For the first concert, he introduced Black, Brown, and Beige, a piece in three sections that represented symphonically the story of blacks in the United States. Black concerned people of color at work and at prayer, Brown celebrated black soldiers who fought in American wars, and Beige depicted the African American music of Harlem. Other Carnegie Hall debuts included New World a-Comin, about a black revolution to come after the end of World War II, and Liberian Suite, commissioned by the government of Liberia to honor its centennial.

Blew the Joint Away at Newport

The bands triumph at the Newport Jazz Festival of 1956 did much to broaden Ellingtons audience. That year, Ellingtons band was set to close the bill on the night of July 7th. Due to delayed starting times for earlier acts, the group did not take the stage until 11:45 p.m.just 15 minutes before the concert was scheduled to end. Some members of the audience were already starting to leave. After performing an elaborate suite and a few standard works, Ellington led the band into Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, highlighted by the improvisations of tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves.

The piece brought listeners to their feet. It was solid jazz, blazing hot, proclaimed Collier. Four men went out and played for six minutes and blew the joint away. [The audience was] shaken by the music, and those who were there would never forget it. Within weeks Ellingtons picture was on the cover of Time. The record of the Newport concert sold in the hundreds of thousands and became Ellingtons biggest seller.

The 1960s: Musician, Historian, Lecturer

Ellington continued to compose throughout the 1960s, writing scores for various motion pictures and garnering an Academy Award nomination for the score of the 1961 film Paris Blues, which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as lovestruck musicians in Paris. Two years later, Ellington was appointed by President John F. Kennedys Cultural Committee to represent the United States on a State Department-sponsored tour of the East, including Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon. Aside from performing in concert on the tour, Ellington lectured on the history of jazz, famous jazz musicians, and the state of American race relations.

During the mid-1960s Ellington and his band, ever innovative, started to perform jazz-style sacred-music concerts in large cathedrals throughout the world. The first was in San Franciscos Grace Episcopal Cathedral in 1965 and included In the Beginning God. Ellington featured another lineup of sacred songs at his 1968 concert in New York Citys Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine and went on to perform at St. Sulpice in Paris, Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, and Westminster Abbey in London.

Duke Ellington was active as a performer and composer until his death from lung cancer on May 24, 1974, in New York City. His compositions such as Mood Indigo and In a Sentimental Mood remain jazz standards more than half a century after their introduction. Following Ellingtons death, his son, Mercer, who had been serving as the bands business manager and trumpet player, took over its leadership. But as Phyl Garland, writing in Ebony magazine, put it, the elder Ellington will always be remembered for the daring innovations that came to mark his musicthe strange modulations built upon lush melodies that ramble into unexpected places; the unorthodox construction of songs; the bold use of dissonance in advance of the time.

Selected compositions

Shorter works

Black and Tan Fantasy, 1927.

Creole Love Call, 1927.

Hot and Bothered, 1928.

Mood Indigo, 1931.

It Dont Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing), 1932.

Sophisticated Lady, 1933.

Drop Me Off at Harlem, 1933.

In a Sentimental Mood, 1935.

Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue, 1937.

Caravan, 1937.

Empty Ballroom Blues, 1938.

Concerto for Cootie, 1939.

Other compositions include Soda Fountain Rag, Solitude, I Got It Bad and That Aint Good, When a Black Mans Blue, Rockin in Rhythm, and The Blues Is Waitin.

Longer works

Creole Rhapsody, 1931.

Black, Brown, and Beige, 1943.

New World a-Comin, 1945.

The Deep South Suite, 1946.

The Liberian Suite, 1947.

The Tattooed Bride, 1948.

Harlem, 1950.

Night Creature, 1955.

Festival Suite, 1956.

My People, 1963.

The Far East Suite, 1964.

Selected discography

Afro-Bossa, Reprise, 1963.

Happy Reunion (recorded 19571958), Sony, 1991.

At Newport, Columbia House Legends of Jazz Program, 1993.

The Beginning (recorded 19261928), Decca.

The Best of Duke Ellington, Capitol.

(With the Boston Pops) Duke at Tanglewood, RCA.

Early Ellington, Everest Archives.

The Ellington Era (two volumes), Columbia.

Fantasies, Harmony.

Hot in Harlem (recorded 19281929), Decca.

The Indispensable Duke Ellington, RCA.

In My Solitude, Harmony.

Sources

Books

Collier, James Lincoln, Duke Ellington, Oxford University Press, 1987.

Dance, Stanley, The World of Duke Ellington, Da Capo, 1980.

Ellington, Duke, Music Is My Mistress, Doubleday, 1973.

Ellington, Mercer, and Stanley Dance, Duke Ellington in Person, Houghton Mifflin, 1978.

Frankl, Ron, Duke Ellington, Chelsea House, 1988.

Gammond, Peter, editor, Duke Ellington: His Life and Music, Da Capo, 1977.

Jewell, Derek, Duke: A Portrait of Duke Ellington, Norton, 1977.

Rattenbury, Ken, Duke Ellington: Jazz Composer, Yale University Press, 1991.

Periodicals

Crisis, January 1982.

Ebony, July 1969, p. 29.

Esquire, December 1983.

Newsweek, May 12, 1969.

New York Times Magazine, September 12,1965, p. 64.

Progressive, August 1982.

Readers Digest, November 1969, p. 108.

A permanent exhibit titled Duke Ellington: American Musician was installed at the Smithsonians Museum of American History, Washington, DC, in the late 1980s; a larger exhibit, Beyond Category: The Musical Genius of Duke Ellington, was scheduled for display at the Museum of American History from April through September of 1993 before traveling throughout the United States.

Elizabeth Wenning and Barbara Carlisle Bigelow

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Ellington, Duke

Duke Ellington

Born: April 29, 1899
Washington, D.C.
Died: May 24, 1974
New York, New York

African American composer, band leader, and pianist

Duke Ellington is considered by many to be one of America's most brilliant jazz composers (writers of music) of the twentieth century. Ellington's classics include "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," "Mood Indigo," and "I Let a Song Get Out of My Head."

Early life and career

On April 29, 1899, Edward Kennedy Ellington was born in Washington, D.C., to James Edward and Daisy Ellington. With his father, a Methodist, and his mother, a Baptist, Ellington's upbringing had strong religious influences. An artistic child, Ellington passed up an art scholarship to study at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, in order to devote his time to his first love: music, specifically the piano. By the age of fourteen, Ellington had written his first two pieces, "Soda Fountain Rag" and "What You Gonna Do When the Bed Breaks Down?" During this time Ellington gained his nickname, "Duke," after a friend recommended that Ellington should have some sort of title.

He divided his studies between music and commercial art, and by 1918 established a reputation as a bandleader and agent. In 1923 he went to New York City and soon became a successful bandleader. In 1927 he secured an important engagement at the Cotton Club in Harlem, a section of New York City, and remained there (aside from occasional tours) until 1932.

Ellington's band made its first European trip in 1932. After World War II (193945), the band toured Europe regularly, with short trips to South America, the Far East, and Australia. One peak period for the band was from 1939 to 1942, when many critics considered its performances superior to any other jazz ensemble (group).

Duke's music

As a composer Ellington was responsible for numerous works that achieved popular success, some written with his band members and with his co-arranger Billy Strayhorn. The Duke's most significant music was written specifically for his own band and soloists. Always sensitive to the nuances (small variations) of tone of his soloists (single performers), Ellington wrote features for individual sidemen and used his knowledge of their characteristic sounds when composing other works. His arrangements achieved a remarkable blend of individual and ensemble contributions. However, because most of his works were written for his own band, interpretations by others have rarely been satisfactory.

With Creole Rhapsody (1931) and Reminiscing in Tempo (1935) Ellington was the first jazz composer to break the three-minute time limitation of the 78-rpm record. After the 1940s he concentrated more on longer works, including several suites (arrangements of music) built around a central theme, frequently an aspect of African American life. Always a fine orchestral pianist, with a style influenced by the Harlem stylists of the 1920s, Ellington remained in the background on most of his early recordings. After the 1950s he emerged as a highly imaginative piano soloist.

Duke's legacy

Ellington was the recipient of numerous Grammy Awards throughout his career, and in 1959 he was awarded the Springarn Medal from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1964. The city of New York gave him a prize and Yale University awarded him a doctor of music degree in 1967; Morgan State and Washington universities also gave him honorary degrees that year. On his seventieth birthday Ellington was honored by President Richard Nixon (19131994) at a White House ceremony and was given the Medal of Freedom. In 1970 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Ellington continued to compose and perform until his death from lung cancer on May 24, 1974, in New York City. His band, headed by his son Mercer, survived him, but as Phyl Garland of Ebony magazine writes, the elder Ellington will always be remembered for "the daring innovations that came to mark his musicthe strange modulations (changing from one key to another) built upon lush melodies that ramble into unexpected places, the unorthodox (untraditional) construction of songs."

Ellington's legacy is that he remains one of the greatest talents in all of jazz, a remarkable feat considering the history of jazz is packed with legendary names. His influence over musicians is as important today as it was during Ellington's time.

For More Information

Ellington, Edward Kennedy. Music is My Mistress. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1973, revised edition 1989.

Hasse, John Edward. Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993.

Lawrence, A. H. Duke Ellington and His World: A Biography. New York: Schirmer Books, 1999.

Nicholson, Stuart. Reminiscing in Tempo: A Portrait of Duke Ellington. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999.

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Ellington, Duke

Duke Ellington (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 Strayhorn, 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, Duke

Ellington, Duke ( Edward Kennedy) (b Washington, DC, 1899; d NY, 1974). Amer. composer, pianist, and jazz-band leader. One of the most influential figures in the history of jazz. From 1927 to 1932 his band established its fame at the Cotton Club, NY. Later it toured Europe (1933 and 1939), attracting and influencing several composers; though re-formed several times, some of its members remained with Ellington for over 30 years. Among his most celebrated players were Johnny Hodges (sax.), Barney Bigard (cl.), Cootie Williams (tpt.), Lawrence Brown (tb.), and Harry Carney (bar. sax.). Wrote about 6,000 comps., among best known being Mood Indigo, Solitude, Caravan, Sophisticated Lady, Black and Tan Fantasy, Creole Love Call, and Black, Brown, and Beige.

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Ellington, ‘Duke’

Ellington, ‘Duke’ ( Edward Kennedy) (1899–1974) US jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader. His early pieces, performed (1927–32) at the Cotton Club, New York, include “Black and Tan Fantasy” (1927) and “Mood Indigo” (1930). The ‘jungle’ style gave way to the elegance of the Blanton-Webster years (1939–42), and standards such as “Take the A Train” and “Got It Bad”. Black, Brown and Beige (1943) was written for a concert at Carneige Hall, New York.

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Ellington, Duke

Duke Ellington

Bandleader, composer, pianist

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

Duke Ellington was eulogized as the supreme jazz talent of the past fifty years by critic Alistair Cooke in a 1983 issue of Esquire. A prolific composer, Ellington created over two thousand pieces of music, including the standard songs Take the A-Train and It Dont Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing) and the longer works Black, Brown, and Beige, Liberian Suite, and Afro-Eurasian Eclipse. With the variously named bands he led from 1919 until his death in 1974, Ellington was responsible for many innovations in the jazz field, such as jungle-style use of the growl and plunger, and the manipulation of the human voice as an instrumentsinging notes without words. During the course of his long career, Ellington was showered with many honors, including the highest civilian award granted by the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was presented to him by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969. No one else, concluded Cooke, in the eighty-or ninety-year history of jazz, created so personal an orchestral sound and so continuously expanded the jazz idiom.

Born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington, D.C., on April 29, 1899, to a middle-class black family, he was exposed to music at an early age. Both his fatherwho made blueprints for the navy and served as a White House butlerand his mother could play the piano. The Ellingtons were strongly religious and hoped that if their son learned piano he would later exchange it for the church organ, but at first he was uncooperative. At the age of six young Ellington labeled his piano teacher Miss Clinkscales and, according to Esquire, was her poorest pupil, the only child to forget his part in her yearly piano recital. As he grew older Ellington became interested in drawing and painting, and won a prize from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for a poster he created, but continued his music lessons because he noticed that pretty girls tended to flock around piano players.

Ellington began to take the piano more seriously as a high-school student and learned much from his schools music teacher, Henry Grant. When he was fifteen Ellington worked after school in a soda shop; the experience led him to write his first jazz song, Soda Fountain Rag. At about this time, he also acquired the nickname Duke. There are many stories explaining how Ellington obtained the moniker, but the most prevalent says that he had a young, elegant, social-climbing friend who felt that admission into his circle demanded that Ellington have a noble title, and the label stuck. Ellington dropped out of high school to pursue his musical career, playing in jazz bands by night and supplementing his income by painting signs during the

For the Record

Full name Edward Kennedy Ellington; born April 29, 1899, in Washington, D.C.; died May 24, 1974; son of James Edward (a butler, carpenter, and blueprint maker) and Daisy (Kennedy) Ellington; married Edna Thompson, July 2, 1918 (separated); children: Mercer. Education: High-school dropout.

Worked in a soda shop and as a sign painter in his youth; began playing in jazz bands c. 1917; served as a U.S. Navy and State Department messenger during World War I; began leading his own band c. 1919; performed in Washington, D.C., and New York City during the 1920s, and various other cities throughout the world beginning in the 1930s; concert performer and recording artist with his various bands until his death of cancer in 1974. Appeared in and/or wrote scores for films, including Check and Double Check, 1930, Anatomy of a Murder, Paris Blues, and Assault on a Queen.

Awards: Received numerous awards, including the French Legion of Honor, the Presidents Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, several Grammys, an Academy Award nomination for the score of Paris Blues.

day. Often he managed to persuade club owners to let him paint the signs announcing the groups engagement.

Influenced by the style of earlier jazz artist Doc Perry, Ellington continued to work on his piano playing and, after the end of World War I, formed his own band. Critics note that it was his band, rather than his piano, that was his true instrument. He composed, not so much with a particular instrument in mind, but rather thinking of the current band member who played that instrument, suiting the music to the style of the player. Though the turnover rate in Ellingtons band was not high, due to the bands longevity many musicians and singers played with Ellington over the years: Toby Hardwick, Elmer Snowden, William Greer, Barney Bigard, Wellman Braud, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges, Bubber Miley, Joe Nanton, Cootie Williams, Adelaide Hall, and Billy Strayhorn are among the more notable. Ellington and his band began playing local clubs and parties in Washington, D.C., during the early 1920s, but soon moved to New York City, where they secured a three-year engagement at the popular Cotton Club.

During the 1920s and 1930s, Ellington branched out into writing musical revues, such as Chocolate Kiddies, a success in Germany; playing in Broadway musicals, such as the 1929 Show Girl; and appearing with his band in motion pictures, such as the 1930 Amos and Andy feature Check and Double Check. Later Ellington composed scores for films and was nominated for an Academy Award for the music of Paris Blues (1961). But during the 1930s he was also experimenting with the infusion of Latin American elements into jazz; perhaps the most famous example of this work is his Caravan. In 1939 Strayhorn joined Ellingtons band, beginning a composition partnership that lasted until Strayhorns death in 1967. The bands horizons expanded geographically in the 1930s as wellEllington on tour was well received not only by audiences throughout the United States, but also in Europe.

In 1943 Ellington helped set up an annual jazz concert series at New York Citys Carnegie Hall. The series lasted until 1955, and Ellington was deeply involved with it each year. He used the yearly event to premiere new, longer works of jazz that he composed. For the first concert, Ellington introduced Black, Brown, and Beige, a piece in three sections that represented symphonically the story of blacks in the United States.

Black concerned black people at work and at prayer, Brown celebrated black soldiers who fought in the American Revolution, and Beige depicted the black music of Harlem. Other Carnegie Hall debuts included New World a-Comin, about a black revolution to come after the end of World War II, Liberian Suite, commissioned by the government of Liberia to honor its centennial, The Tattooed Bride, and Night Creature.

During the mid 1960s Ellington and his band, ever innovative, started to perform jazz-style sacred-music concerts in large cathedrals throughout the world. The first was in San Franciscos Grace Episcopal Cathedral in 1965 and included In the Beginning God. He featured different songs at his 1968 concert in New York Citys Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Ellington also presented his sacred music at St. Sulpice in Paris, Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona, and Westminster Abbey in London.

Duke Ellington was active as a performer and composer until his death of lung cancer on May 24, 1974, in New York City. Though his audiences constantly demanded such old standards as Mood Indigo and In a Sentimental Mood, Ellington preferred to look ahead and develop new songs for his band. One of his last was The Blues Is Waitin. After his death, his only son, Mercer Ellington, who had been serving as the bands business manager and trumpet player, took over its leadership. But Ellington will always be remembered, in the words of Phyl Garland in Ebony magazine, for the daring innovations that [marked] his musicthe strange modulations built upon lush melodies that ramble into unexpected places; the unorthodox construction of songs [and] the bold use of dissonance in advance of the time.

Selected discography

Shorter works; recorded primarily on Reprise and RCA

Black and Tan Fantasy, 1927.

East St. Louis Toodle-Oo, 1927.

Creole Love Call, 1927.

Hot and Bothered, 1928.

Mood Indigo, 1931.

It Dont Mean a Thing (If It Aint Got That Swing), 1932.

Sophisticated Lady, 1933.

Drop Me Off at Harlem, 1933.

In a Sentimental Mood, 1935.

Caravan, 1937.

Empty Ballroom Blues, 1938.

Concerto for Cootie, 1939.

Also recorded Soda Fountain Rag, Take the A-Train, Solitude, I Got It Bad and That Aint Good, When a Black Mans Blue, Rockin in Rhythm, and The Blues Is Waitin.

Longer works; recorded primarily on Reprise and RCA

Creole Rhapsody, 1931.

Reminiscing in Tempo, 1935.

Black, Brown, and Beige, 1943.

New World a-Comin, 1943.

The Deep South Suite, 1946.

Liberian Suite, 1947.

The Tattooed Bride, 1948.

Harlem, 1951.

Night Creature, 1955.

Festival Suite, 1956.

Suite Thursday, 1960.

My People, 1963.

Golden Broom, 1964.

Green Apple, 1964.

In the Beginning God, 1965.

The River, 1970.

Afro-Eurasian Eclipse, 1970.

Toga Brava, 1973.

Also recorded Shakespearian Suite, The Far East Suite, and New Orleans Suite.

Sources

Books

Ellington, Duke, Music Is My Mistress, Doubleday, 1973.

Jewell, Derek, Duke: A Portrait of Duke Ellington, Norton, 1977.

Periodicals

The Crisis, January, 1982.

Ebony, July, 1969.

Esquire, December, 1983.

The Progressive, August, 1982.

Elizabeth Thomas

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