Skip Nav


Essay title: Duke Ellington

❶This staggering collection —which came from his son, Mercer Ellington—includes some , pages of unpublished scores and band parts that he and Billy Strayhorn composed for the Duke Ellington Orchestra; another , pages of documents such as band itineraries, financial records, program booklets, and correspondence; a thousand sound recordings; photographs; and objects such as clothing, medals, trophies, and other awards.

Duke Ellington essay

Navigation menu
STEP 1. Online application
Essay, term paper, research paper: Culture

Some of the musicians who were members of Ellington's orchestra, such as saxophonist Johnny Hodges , are considered to be among the best players in jazz. Ellington melded them into the best-known orchestral unit in the history of jazz. Some members stayed with the orchestra for several decades. A master at writing miniatures for the three-minute 78 rpm recording format, Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions; his extensive body of work is the largest recorded personal jazz legacy, with many of his works having become standards.

Ellington also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, for example Juan Tizol 's " Caravan ", and " Perdido ", which brought a Spanish tinge to big band jazz. After , Ellington collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn , whom he called his writing and arranging companion. Following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival , in July , Ellington and his orchestra enjoyed a major career revival and embarked on world tours.

Ellington recorded for most American record companies of his era, performed in several films, scoring several, and composed stage musicals. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band, and thanks to his eloquence and charisma, Ellington elevated jazz to an art form.

His reputation continued to rise after he died, and he was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize Special Award for music in Both his parents were pianists.

Daisy primarily played parlor songs and James preferred operatic arias. When Ellington was a child, his family showed racial pride and support in their home, as did many other families. African Americans in D. At the age of seven, Ellington began taking piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales. Daisy surrounded her son with dignified women to reinforce his manners and teach him to live elegantly. Ellington's childhood friends noticed that his casual, offhand manner, his easy grace, and his dapper dress gave him the bearing of a young nobleman, [9] and began calling him "Duke.

So he called me Duke. Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. He gained his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators baseball games. He created the piece by ear, as he had not yet learned to read and write music. I was established as having my own repertoire. Ellington started sneaking into Frank Holiday's Poolroom at the age of 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. 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 stride pianists James P. Johnson and Luckey Roberts. His attachment to music was so strong that in he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Three months before graduating he dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art. Working as a freelance sign-painter from , Ellington began assembling groups to play for dances.

In he met drummer Sonny Greer from New Jersey, who encouraged Ellington's ambition to become a professional musician. Ellington built his music business through his day job: He also had a messenger job with the U. Navy and State departments, where he made a wide range of contacts.

Ellington moved out of his parents' home and bought his own as he became a successful pianist. At first, he played in other ensembles, and in late formed his first group, "The Duke's Serenaders" "Colored Syncopators", his telephone directory advertising proclaimed.

His first play date was at the True Reformer's Hall, where he took home 75 cents. Ellington played throughout the Washington, D. The band included childhood friend Otto Hardwick , who began playing the string bass, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto 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 in the segregated society of the day. 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 gigs they could find. The young band met stride pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith , who introduced them to the scene and gave them some money. They played at rent-house parties for income. After a few months, the young musicians returned to Washington, D. This was followed in September by a move to the Hollywood Club — 49th and Broadway — and a four-year engagement, which gave Ellington a solid artistic base.

He was known to play the bugle at the end of each performance. They renamed themselves The Washingtonians. Snowden left the group in early and Ellington took over as bandleader. After a fire, the club was re-opened as the Club Kentucky often referred to as the Kentucky Club.

Ellington made eight records in , receiving composing credit on three including "Choo Choo". Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra grew to a group of ten players; they developed their own sound by 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 soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet played with them, imparting his propulsive swing and superior musicianship to the young band members. After recording a handful of acoustic titles during —26, Ellington's signing with Mills allowed him to record prolifically, although sometimes he recorded different versions of the same tune. Mills often took a co-composer credit. Whoopee Makers and the Ten Black Berries were other pseudonyms.

In September , King Oliver turned down a regular booking for his group as the house band at Harlem's Cotton Club ; [22] the offer passed to Ellington after Jimmy McHugh suggested him and Mills arranged an audition. At the Cotton Club, Ellington's group performed all the music for the revues, which mixed comedy, dance numbers, vaudeville, burlesque, music, and illegal alcohol.

Here he moved in with a dancer, his second wife Mildred Dixon. Although trumpeter Bubber Miley was a member of the orchestra for only a short period, he had a major influence on Ellington's sound. One side in particular, " Creole Love Call ", became a worldwide sensation and gave both Ellington and Hall their first hit record. An alcoholic, Miley had to leave the band before they gained wider fame. He died in at the age of 29, but he was an important influence on Cootie Williams , who replaced him.

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 , 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.

That year, 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". Australian-born composer Percy Grainger was an early admirer and supporter.

Unfortunately Bach is dead, Delius is very ill but we are happy to have with us today The Duke". Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton. By his orchestra consisted of six brass instruments, four reeds, and a four-man rhythm section.

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. Ellington signed exclusively to Brunswick in and stayed with them through late albeit with a short-lived —34 switch to Victor when Irving Mills temporarily moved him and his other acts from Brunswick. Sonny Greer had been providing occasional vocals and continued to do in a cross-talk feature with Anderson.

Radio exposure helped maintain Ellington's public profile as his orchestra began to tour. The other records of this era include: While the band's United States audience remained mainly African-American in this period, the Ellington orchestra had a significant following overseas, exemplified by the success of their trip to England and Scotland in and their visit to the European mainland.

The British visit saw Ellington win praise from members of the serious music community, including composer Constant Lambert , which gave a boost to Ellington's interest in composing longer works. Those longer pieces had already begun to appear. He had composed and recorded Creole Rhapsody as early as issued as both sides of a 12" record for Victor and both sides of a 10" record for Brunswick , and a tribute to his mother, "Reminiscing in Tempo", took four 10" record sides to record in after her death in that year.

It introduced Billie Holiday , and won an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. For agent Mills the attention was a publicity triumph, as Ellington was now internationally known. On the band's tour through the segregated South in , they avoided some of the traveling difficulties of African-Americans by touring in private railcars.

These provided easy accommodations, dining, and storage for equipment while avoiding the indignities of segregated facilities. Competition was intensifying though, as swing bands like Benny Goodman 's, began to receive popular attention.

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's band could certainly swing, but their strengths were mood, nuance, and richness of composition, hence his statement "jazz is music, swing is business".

From , Ellington began to make recordings with smaller groups sextets, octets, and nonets drawn from his thenman orchestra and he composed pieces intended to feature a specific instrumentalist, as with "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges , "Yearning for Love" for Lawrence Brown , "Trumpet in Spades" for Rex Stewart , " Echoes of Harlem " for Cootie Williams and "Clarinet Lament" for Barney Bigard.

In the summer of that year, his father died, and due to many expenses, Ellington's finances were tight, although his situation improved the following year. Mills though continued to record Ellington. After only a year, his Master and Variety labels, the small groups had recorded for the latter, collapsed in late , Mills placed Ellington back on Brunswick and those small group units on Vocalion through to Billy Strayhorn , originally hired as a lyricist, began his association with Ellington in Ellington showed great fondness for Strayhorn and never failed to speak glowingly of the man and their collaborative working relationship, "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".

It was not uncommon for Strayhorn to fill in for Duke, whether in conducting or rehearsing the band, playing the piano, on stage, and in the recording studio.

Some of the musicians who joined Ellington at this time created a sensation in their own right. Terminal illness forced him to leave by late after only about two years. Ben Webster , the Orchestra's first regular tenor saxophonist, whose main tenure with Ellington spanned to , started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra's foremost voice in the sax section. Additionally, Nance added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal.

Privately made by Jack Towers and Dick Burris, these recordings were first legitimately issued in as Duke Ellington at Fargo, Live ; they are among the earliest of innumerable live performances which survive. Nance was also an occasional vocalist, although Herb Jeffries was the main male vocalist in this era until while Al Hibbler who replaced Jeffries in continued until Ivie Anderson left in for health reasons after eleven years: Once again recording for Victor from , with the small groups recording for their Bluebird label, three-minute masterpieces on 78 rpm record sides continued to flow from Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ellington's son Mercer Ellington , and members of the Orchestra.

Ellington and his associates wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices who displayed tremendous creativity. Ellington's long-term aim though was to extend the jazz form from that three-minute limit, of which he was an acknowledged master. 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 " , was dedicated to telling the story of African-Americans, and the place of slavery and the church in their history.

Ellington debuted Black, Brown and Beige in Carnegie Hall on January 23, , beginning an annual series of concerts there over the next four years. While some jazz musicians had played at Carnegie Hall before, none had performed anything as elaborate as Ellington's work. Unfortunately, starting a regular pattern, Ellington's longer works were generally not well received. A partial exception was Jump for Joy , a full-length musical based on themes of African-American identity, debuted on July 10, , at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles.

Hollywood luminaries such as actors John Garfield and Mickey Rooney invested in the production, and Charlie Chaplin and Orson Welles offered to direct. Ellington objected in the interval, and compared Jeffries to Al Jolson.

The change was reverted, and the singer later commented that the audience must have thought he was an entirely different character in the second half of the show. Although it had sold-out performances, and received positive reviews, [44] it ran for only performances until September 29, , with a brief revival in November of that year. Its subject matter did not make it appealing to Broadway; Ellington had unfulfilled plans to take it there. The settlement of the first recording ban of —43 , leading to an increase in royalties paid to musicians, had a serious effect on the financial viability of the big bands, including Ellington's Orchestra.

His income as a songwriter ultimately subsidized it. Although he always spent lavishly and drew a respectable income from the Orchestra's operations, the band's income often just covered expenses. World War II brought about a swift end to the big band era as musicians went off to serve in the military and travel restrictions made touring difficult. When the war ended, the focus of popular music shifted towards crooners such as Frank Sinatra and Jo Stafford , so Ellington's wordless vocal feature "Transblucency" with Kay Davis was not going to have a similar reach.

With inflation setting in after , the cost of hiring big bands went up and club owners preferred smaller jazz groups who played in new styles such as bebop. Dancing in clubs also subjected club owners to a new wartime tax which continued for many years after, which made small bands more cost-effective for club owners.

Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts. While Count Basie was forced to disband his whole ensemble and work as an octet for a time, Ellington was able to tour most of Western Europe between April 6 and June 30, , with the orchestra playing 74 dates over 77 days. Ellington later presented its score to music-loving President Harry Truman. Also during his time in Europe, Ellington would compose the music for a stage production by Orson Welles. In , Ellington suffered a significant loss of personnel: Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and most importantly Johnny Hodges left to pursue other ventures, although only Greer was a permanent departee.

Tenor player Paul Gonsalves had joined in December [48] after periods with Count Basie and Dizzy Gillespie and stayed for the rest of his life, while Clark Terry joined in November During the early s, Ellington's career was at a low point with his style being generally seen as outmoded, but his reputation did not suffer as badly as some artists. Ellington's appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, returned him to wider prominence and introduced him to a new generation of fans.

The feature " Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue " comprised two tunes that had been in the band's book since but largely forgotten until Ellington, who had abruptly ended the band's scheduled set because of the late arrival of four key players, called the two tunes as the time was approaching midnight.

Announcing that the two pieces would be separated by an interlude played by tenor saxophonist Paul Gonsalves , Ellington proceeded to lead the band through the two pieces, with Gonsalves' chorus marathon solo whipping the crowd into a frenzy, leading the Maestro to play way beyond the curfew time despite urgent pleas from festival organizer George Wein to bring the program to an end.

The concert made international headlines, led to one of only five Time magazine cover stories dedicated to a jazz musician, [53] and resulted in an album produced by George Avakian that would become the best-selling LP of Ellington's career.

According to Avakian, Ellington was dissatisfied with aspects of the performance and felt the musicians had been under rehearsed. Not until was the concert recording properly released for the first time. The revived attention brought about by the Newport appearance should not have surprised anyone, Johnny Hodges had returned the previous year, and Ellington's collaboration with Strayhorn had been renewed around the same time, under terms more amenable to the younger man.

The original Ellington at Newport album was the first release in a new recording contract with Columbia Records which yielded several years of recording stability, mainly under producer Irving Townsend , who coaxed both commercial and artistic productions from Ellington.

His hope that television would provide a significant new outlet for his type of jazz was not fulfilled. Tastes and trends had moved on without him. Festival appearances at the new Monterey Jazz Festival and elsewhere provided venues for live exposure, and a European tour in was well received. Such Sweet Thunder , based on Shakespeare's plays and characters, and The Queen's Suite , dedicated to Britain's Queen Elizabeth II , were products of the renewed impetus which the Newport appearance helped to create, although the latter work was not commercially issued at the time.

The late s also saw Ella Fitzgerald record her Duke Ellington Songbook Verve 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 at this time with Strayhorn began to work directly on scoring for film soundtracks, in particular Anatomy of a Murder , [32] with James Stewart , in which Ellington appeared fronting a roadhouse combo, and Paris Blues , which featured Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians.

Detroit Free Press music critic Mark Stryker concludes that the work of Billy Strayhorn and Ellington in Anatomy of a Murder a trial court drama film directed by Otto Preminger , is "indispensable, [although]. Film historians have recognized the soundtrack "as a landmark — the first significant Hollywood film music by African Americans comprising non-diegetic music, that is, music whose source is not visible or implied by action in the film, like an on-screen band.

In the early s, Ellington embraced recording with artists who had been friendly rivals in the past, or were younger musicians who focused on later styles. The Ellington and Count Basie orchestras recorded together. He signed to Frank Sinatra 's new Reprise label , but the association with the label was short-lived. The Motzarts and Beethovens, who wrote the music that today is known as the classics.

These men were naturals in their own right, but these people wrote their music in the 17th and 18th century. Many people don't realize all of the changes that music had to go through between that period of music and the present day. One such musician stands alone at the top as one of the movers and innovators of the 20th century. He is Duke Ellington. Along with his band, he alone influenced millions of people both around the world and at home. He gave American music its own sound for the first time.

Winton Marsalis said it best when he said "His music sounds like America. Duke's legacy will live on for generations to come. His father at the time was employed as a butler yet always wanted the best for Duke.

At the young age of seven Ellington took up the piano, because his father had always wanted him to become an artist But how was Duke to become an artist in a time when blacks weren't given the same rights as everyone else. They went to separate schools. They were forced to the back of the bus and to use separate bathrooms. If Duke were to become some one he had much to come over.

One thing that we do know is that Duke was always looking for attention and dignity. There are even stories of how he would announce from the top of the stairs in the morning that he was coming down and demand that his parents applaud Collier,9. Also when his cousins would come over he would stand on the front porch as they arrived and make them curtsy in front of him 9. Of course they didn't like that but they played along From the beginning Duke Ellington wanted to be remembered by generations to come, That would be difficult being the son of a butler and black The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, ; in a time when Negroes had many obstacles including the racism that plagued the United States.

About ten years after he started to play piano, he made his professional debut. It was nothing glitzy just a pub in uptown Back in Ellington's time black performers had to enter through back doors. He was on his way, or was he? In he experienced failure due to financial instability Most people would have given up by now but not the Duke.

He kept on looking for work. His relentless perseverance payed off. In Elmer Snowden asked Duke Ellington to join his band and he accepted without question Collier, So Duke moved north to New York and joined the Washingtonians Elmer Snowden was so impressed by his natural ability, that in he handed his band over to Ellington Collier, It was the turning point in Ellingtons life.

He was now the leader of a headlining bank at the Cotton Club. It was for whites only," says Joe Louis Gales, Imagine the prestige of being a Black in the midst of White people. Ellington was finally rubbing shoulders the upper class. However he was not allowed to share his talent with his own kind. His inspiration for all his wonderful compositions never were heard by them.

It's like writing a love song for someone and not being allowed to share it. His feelings and ideas were never expressed to the people that meant the most to him, his people Johnson, At the time his legacy was only known by the whites who went to see him perform. It wasn't until later when Blacks began to hear the Duke's music for the first time. Being headlined wasn't the only fame that the band brought Duke Ellington. Ellington was becoming a household name. The attention and dignity that he had always strived for as a kid had finally come.

Ellington was not going to let opportunity get away from him. During the time from to he went on a huge world tour that spanned the globe. Often times, Ellington supported his dreams out of his own pocket or from royalties collected from his ever growing and equally popular songbook Duke is Still Tops Duke Ellington showed Black Americans today that you could be someone, if you wanted it badly enough.

He was willing to put himself on the line in order to gain respect in a time when blacks received little respect in America. DeSable probably put it best when he said, "yet the man who was sent to the Colored People's Waiting Room at the same time was the toast of Paris! America was truly disregarding one of the greatest Americans there ever will be. His legacy is part of the America that we want people around the world to see, the Cinderella story, from relative obscurity to fame.

Duke will probably be remembered most for the over songs that he composed during his lifetime. The most amazing part about Ellington was the most creative while he was on the road and busy.

The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, It was during this time when he wrote his most famous piece, "Mood Indigo" which brought him world wide fame. When asked what inspired him to write, Ellington replied, "My men and my race are the inspiration of my work. I try to catch the character and mood and feeling of my people" Johnson Duke wrote from the heart.

Unlike now adays when writers write for money, Duke's music was at the next level of musicianship. One of feel and love for what he was doing. The other aspect about Duke that makes his writings so great was his wide range of styles that he could write in.

During his lifetime, Ellington was able to sign his name to a Broadway musical, "Beggers Holiday", a ballet, "The River", and a full length movie score, Anatomy of a Murder. Some of his more interesting music came from the period when he wrote in a classical style. What makes his music so interesting is how it sounds so much like Beethoven yet, there is an underlying jazz feel to the music. This is something that is very unique to his writing.

Other sample model essays:

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

Duke Ellington essay Edward Kennedy Ellington was one of the most famous jazz composers and performers of the twentieth century. It is a well-known fact that Duke Ellington went down in history of jazz music as one of the most significant composers, as well as outstanding bandleader, who led his own musical group of about fifty years.

Privacy FAQs

- Duke Ellington was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 28, in Washington, D.C. to Daisy and James Ellington. They served as the ideal role models for young Duke and taught him everything from table manners to the power of music.

About Our Ads

Duke Ellington Essay Words | 3 Pages. Duke Elington Duke Ellington was an American jazz bandleader, composer, and pianist. He is thought of as one the greatest figures in jazz. Edward Kennedy Ellington was born into the world on April 29, in Washington, D.C. Duke’s parents, Daisy Kennedy Ellington and James Edward Ellington, served as ideal role models for young Duke, and taught him everything from proper table manners to .

Cookie Info

Duke Ellington is considered to be one of the greatest figures in the history of American music. Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was born in Washington D.C. on April 29, His parents were James Edward and Daisy Kennedy Ellington/5(1). Duke Ellington Essay DUKE ELLINGTON Duke Ellington, named Edward Kennedy Ellington at birth, was born on April 29, , in Washington D.C. to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington.