Ellington, Duke

Ellington, Duke

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, playing his own and Billy Strayhorn's compositions and arrangements, achieved a fine unity of style 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 memoirs, Music Is My Mistress (1973); M. Tucker, ed., The Duke Ellington Reader (1993); biographies by B. Ulanov (1946, repr. 1976), J. L. Collier (1989), M. Tucker (1991), J. E. Hass (1993), and A. H. Lawrence (2001); S. Dance, The World of Duke Ellington (1970); M. Ellington (his son) and S. Dance, Duke Ellington in Person (1978).

orig. Edward Kennedy Ellington

Duke Ellington.

(born April 29, 1899, Washington, D.C., U.S.—died May 24, 1974, New York, N.Y.) U.S. pianist, bandleader, arranger, and composer. He formed his band in 1924 in Washington, D.C.; by 1927 it was performing regularly at the Cotton Club in Harlem. Until the end of his life his band would enjoy the highest professional and artistic reputation in jazz. First known for his distinctive “jungle” sound—a description derived from the use of growling muted brass and sinister harmonies—Ellington increasingly integrated blues elements into his music. He composed with the idiosyncratic sounds of his instrumentalists in mind. Many of his players spent most of their careers with the band; they included saxophonists Johnny Hodges and Harry Carney, bassist Jimmy Blanton, trombonists Tricky Sam Nanton and Lawrence Brown, and trumpeters Bubber Miley and Cootie Williams. Pianist Billy Strayhorn was Ellington's frequent collaborator. Ellington composed a massive body of work, including music for dancing, popular songs, large-scale concert works, musical theatre, and film scores. His best-known compositions include “Mood Indigo,” “Satin Doll,” “Don't Get Around Much Anymore,” and “Sophisticated Lady.”

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