Mercer Ellington

1919 - 1996

American

Biography

Mercer Ellington was the only child of the composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington. By the age of eighteen, Ellington had written his first piece to be recorded by his father ("Pigeons and Peppers"). Ellington attended New College for the Education of Teachers at Columbia University, New York University and the Juilliard School.

Ellington led his own bands, many of whose members later performed with his father, or achieved a successful career in their own right (including Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, Idrees Sulieman, Chico Hamilton, Charles Mingus, and Carmen McRae). During the 1940s, in particular, Ellington wrote pieces that became standards, including "Things Ain't What They Used to Be," "Jumpin' Punkins," "Moon Mist," and "Blue Serge."

Ellington became the first conductor for a Broadway musical of his father's music, Sophisticated Ladies, which ran from 1981 until 1983. Mercer's "Digital Duke" won the 1988 Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album.

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