Edward K. (Duke) Ellington

1899 - 1974

American

Summary

Born 29 April 1899 in Washington DC, composer, bandleader, and pianist Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. A genius for instrumental combinations, improvisation, and jazz arranging brought the world the unique "Ellington" sound that found consummate expression in works like Mood Indigo, Sophisticated Lady, and the symphonic suites Black, Brown, and Beige, and Harlem.

Beginning keyboard studies at the age of seven, Ellington's earliest influences were the ragtime pianists. He taught himself harmony at the piano and at 17, made his professional debut. Encouraged by Fats Waller, he moved to New York in 1923 and, during the formative Cotton Club years, experimented with and developed the style that would quickly bring him worldwide success and recognition. Ellington would be among the first to focus on musical form and composition in jazz using ternary forms and "call-and-response" techniques in works like Concerto for Cootie (known in its familiar vocal version as Do Nothin' till You Hear from Me) and Cotton Tail and classic symphonic devices in his orchestral suites. In this respect, he would influence the likes of Monk, Mingus, and Evans.

Biography

Born 29 April 1899 in Washington DC, composer, bandleader, and pianist Edward Kennedy ("Duke") Ellington was recognized in his lifetime as one of the greatest jazz composers and performers. Nicknamed "Duke" by a boyhood friend who admired his regal air, the name stuck and became indelibly associated with the finest creations in big band and vocal jazz. A genius for instrumental combinations, improvisation, and jazz arranging brought the world the unique "Ellington" sound that found consummate expression in works like "Mood Indigo," "Sophisticated Lady," and the symphonic suites Black, Brown, and Beige (which he subtitled "a Tone Parallel to the History of the Negro in America") and Harlem ("a Tone Parallel to Harlem").

Beginning keyboard studies at the age of seven, Ellington's earliest influences were the ragtime pianists. He taught himself harmony at the piano and at 17, made his professional debut. Encouraged by Fats Waller, he moved to New York in 1923 and, during the formative Cotton Club years, experimented with and developed the style that would quickly bring him worldwide success and recognition. Ellington would be among the first to focus on musical form and composition in jazz using ternary forms and "call-and-response" techniques in works like Concerto for Cootie (known in its familiar vocal version as Do Nothin' till You Hear from Me) and Cotton Tail and classic symphonic devices in his orchestral suites. In this respect, he would influence the likes of Monk, Mingus, and Evans.

Among Ellington's many honors and awards were honorary doctorates from Howard and Yale Universities, membership in the American Institute of Arts and Letters, election as the first jazz musician member of the Royal Music Academy in Stockholm, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

New to the Schirmer Rental Library are several arrangements and editions by Jeff Tyzik, including: The Nutcracker Suite and Ellington Portrait, and The Essential Ellington: Music of Ellington and Strayhorn.

— April 2002

News

Performances

12th July 2020

PERFORMERS
Springfield Symphony Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Peter Stafford Wilson
LOCATION
Veterans Memorial Park, Springfield, OH, United States

17th September 2020

CONDUCTOR
Aram Demirjian
LOCATION
Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN, United States

18th September 2020

CONDUCTOR
Aram Demirjian
LOCATION
Tennessee Theatre, Knoxville, TN, United States

10th December 2020

PERFORMERS
Philadelphia Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Yannick Nezet-Seguin
LOCATION
Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA, United States

11th December 2020

PERFORMERS
Philadelphia Orchestra
CONDUCTOR
Yannick Nezet-Seguin
LOCATION
Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA, United States

Features

  • Socially Distanced Onstage Works
    • Socially Distanced Onstage Works
    • With times of uncertainty ahead for the classical music community, Wise Music Classical has compiled a selection of repertoire for string orchestra, chamber orchestra, and chamber ensembles that allows for onstage social distancing.

Photos

Discography