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Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Overview
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 leader
Bandleader
A bandleader is the leader of a band of musicians. The term is most commonly, though not exclusively, used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll music....

. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. In the words of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe is an American daily newspaper based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe has been owned by The New York Times Company since 1993...

"In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington."

A major figure in the history of jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, Ellington's music stretched into various other genres, including blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

, film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

s, popular
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

, and classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

.
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Quotations

Playing "Bop" is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing.

Look (10 August 1954)

It's like an act of murder; you play with intent to commit something.

On jazz New York Herald Tribune (9 July 1961)

Every man prays in his own language.

Section title and eponymous song of A Concert of Sacred Music (1965)

Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn’t want me to be too famous too young.

At age 66, on being passed over for an award (Pulitzer Prize for music) in 1965, as quoted in The Christian Science Monitor (24 December 1986)

Roaming through the jungle of "oohs" and "ahs," searching for a more agreeable noise, I live a life of primitivity with the mind of a child and an unquenchable thirst for sharps and flats.

Music Is My Mistress (1973)

If it sounds good, it IS good.

J.D. Moore's Ten Commandments for The Studio

There's two kinds of music: good and bad. I like both.

A problem is a chance for you to do your best.

Art is dangerous. It is one of the attractions: when it ceases to be dangerous you don't want it.

Encyclopedia
Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington (April 29, 1899 – May 24, 1974) was an American composer, pianist, and big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

 leader
Bandleader
A bandleader is the leader of a band of musicians. The term is most commonly, though not exclusively, used with a group that plays popular music as a small combo or a big band, such as one which plays jazz, blues, rhythm and blues or rock and roll music....

. Ellington wrote over 1,000 compositions. In the words of Bob Blumenthal of The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe
The Boston Globe is an American daily newspaper based in Boston, Massachusetts. The Boston Globe has been owned by The New York Times Company since 1993...

"In the century since his birth, there has been no greater composer, American or otherwise, than Edward Kennedy Ellington."

A major figure in the history of jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, Ellington's music stretched into various other genres, including blues
Blues
Blues is the name given to both a musical form and a music genre that originated in African-American communities of primarily the "Deep South" of the United States at the end of the 19th century from spirituals, work songs, field hollers, shouts and chants, and rhymed simple narrative ballads...

, gospel
Gospel music
Gospel music is music that is written to express either personal, spiritual or a communal belief regarding Christian life, as well as to give a Christian alternative to mainstream secular music....

, film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

s, popular
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

, and classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

. His career spanned more than 50 years and included leading his orchestra, composing an inexhaustible songbook, scoring for movies, composing stage musicals, and world tours. Several of his instrumental works were adapted into songs that became standards. Due to his inventive use of the orchestra, or big band
Big band
A big band is a type of musical ensemble associated with jazz and the Swing Era typically consisting of rhythm, brass, and woodwind instruments totaling approximately twelve to twenty-five musicians...

, and thanks to his eloquence and extraordinary charisma, he is generally considered to have elevated the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other traditional genres of music. His reputation increased after his death and the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 Board bestowed on him a special posthumous honor in 1999.

Ellington called his music "American Music" rather than jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, and liked to describe those who impressed him as "beyond category." These included many of the musicians who were members of his orchestra, some of whom are considered among the best in jazz in their own right, but it was Ellington who melded them into one of the most well-known jazz orchestral
Orchestral jazz
Orchestral jazz is a jazz genre developed in the United States in the 1920s, most significantly by Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington.As early as the 1910s there had been dance orchestras playing the popular songs of the day along with a smattering of jazz...

 units in the history of jazz. He often composed specifically for the style and skills of these individuals, such as "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
John Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges was an American alto saxophonist, best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington's big band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years, except the period between 1932–1946 when Otto Hardwick generally played first chair...

, "Concerto for Cootie" for Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Charles Melvin "Cootie" Williams was an American jazz, jump blues, and rhythm and blues trumpeter.-Biography:...

, which later became "Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me" with Bob Russell
Bob Russell (songwriter)
Sidney Keith "Bob" Russell, was an American songwriter born in Passaic, New Jersey.In 1968, Russell along with songwriting partner Quincy Jones was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Original Song category...

's lyrics, and "The Mooche" for Tricky Sam Nanton
Tricky Sam Nanton
Joe "Tricky Sam" Nanton was a famous trombonist with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.-Early life:Nanton was born in New York City and began playing professionally in Washington with bands led by Cliff Jackson and Elmer Snowden. He joined Ellington in 1926.From 1923 to 1924, he worked with Frazier's...

 and Bubber Miley. He also recorded songs written by his bandsmen, such as Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol
Juan Tizol was a Puerto Rican trombonist and composer.He was born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico. Music was a large part of his life from an early age. His first instrument was the violin, but he soon switched to valve trombone, the instrument he would play throughout his career...

's "Caravan
Caravan (song)
"Caravan" is a jazz standard composed by Juan Tizol and first performed by Duke Ellington in 1937. Irving Mills wrote the lyrics, but he sometimes is not credited on the many instrumental versions. Its exotic sound interested exotica musicians; Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman both covered it. Woody...

" and "Perdido" which brought the 'Spanish Tinge
Spanish Tinge
The phrase Spanish Tinge is a reference to the belief that a Latin American touch offers a reliable method of spicing the more conventional 4/4 rhythms commonly used in jazz and pop music. The phrase is a quotation from Jelly Roll Morton...

' to big-band jazz. Several members of the orchestra remained there for several decades. After 1941, he frequently collaborated with composer-arranger-pianist Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn was an American composer, pianist and arranger, best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the "A" Train" and "Lush Life".-Early...

, whom he called his "writing and arranging companion." Ellington recorded for many American record companies, and appeared in several films.

Ellington led his band from 1923 until his death in 1974. His son Mercer Ellington
Mercer Ellington
Mercer Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington...

, who had already been handling all administrative aspects of his father's business for several decades, led the band until his own death in 1996. At that point, the original band dissolved. Paul Ellington, Mercer's youngest son and executor of the Duke Ellington estate, kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going from Mercer's death onwards.

Early life


Edward Kennedy Ellington was born on April 29, 1899 to James Edward Ellington and Daisy Kennedy Ellington. Daisy and J.E. were both pianists. She primarily played parlor songs and he operatic airs. They lived with his maternal grandparents at 2129 Ida Place (now Ward Place), NW in the West End
West End, Washington, D.C.
The West End is a neighborhood of the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C., bounded by K Street to the south, Rock Creek Park to the west and north, and New Hampshire Avenue and 21st Street to the east. The West End is so named because it was the westernmost part of the original Pierre L'Enfant...

 neighborhood of Washington, D.C. His father, James Edward Ellington, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina
Lincolnton, North Carolina
Lincolnton is a city in Lincoln County, North Carolina, United States, within the Charlotte metropolitan area. The population was 10,683 at the 2010 census. Lincolnton is located northwest of Charlotte, on the South Fork of the Catawba River, and near the junction of State Highway 27 and U.S. Route...

 on April 15, 1879 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1886 with his parents. Daisy Kennedy was born in Washington, D.C. on January 4, 1879, and was the daughter of a former American slave. James Ellington made blueprints for the United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...



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", and began calling him Duke. Ellington credited his "chum" Edgar McEntree for the nickname. "I think he felt that in order for me to be eligible for his constant companionship, I should have a title. So he called me Duke."

Though Ellington took piano lessons, he was more interested in baseball. "President Roosevelt (Teddy) would come by on his horse sometimes, and stop and watch us play," he recalled. Ellington went to Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D.C. He got his first job selling peanuts at Washington Senators
Minnesota Twins
The Minnesota Twins are a professional baseball team based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They play in the Central Division of Major League Baseball's American League. The team is named after the Twin Cities area of Minneapolis and St. Paul. They played in Metropolitan Stadium from 1961 to 1981 and the...

 baseball games.

In the summer of 1914, while working as a soda jerk
Soda jerk
A soda jerk was a person — typically a youth — who operated the soda fountain in a drugstore, often for the purpose of preparing and serving ice cream soda. This was made by putting flavored syrup into a specially designed tall glass, adding carbonated water and, finally, one or two scoops of ice...

 at the Poodle Dog Cafe, he wrote his first composition, "Soda Fountain Rag" (also known as the "Poodle Dog Rag"). Ellington created "Soda Fountain Rag" by ear, because he had not yet learned to read and write music. "I would play the 'Soda Fountain Rag' as a one-step, two-step, waltz, tango, and fox trot," Ellington recalled. "Listeners never knew it was the same piece. I was established as having my own repertoire." In his autobiography, Music is my Mistress (1973), Ellington said he missed more lessons than he attended, feeling at the time that playing the piano was not his talent. 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. Among the many piano players he listened to were Doc Perry, Lester Dishman, Louis Brown, Turner Layton
Turner Layton
Turner Layton , born John Turner Layton, Jr., was an American songwriter, singer and pianist. Born in Washington, D.C., in 1894, he was the son of John Turner Layton, "a bass singer, music educator and hymn composer." After receiving a musical education from his father, he attended the Howard...

, Gertie Wells, Clarence Bowser, Sticky Mack, Blind Johnny, Cliff Jackson
Cliff Jackson
Clifton Luther "Cliff" Jackson was an American jazz stride pianist.After playing in Atlantic City, Jackson moved to New York City in 1923, where he played with Lionel Howard's Musical Aces in 1924 and recorded with Bob Fuller and Elmer Snowden...

, Claude Hopkins
Claude Hopkins
Claude Driskett Hopkins was an American jazz stride pianist and bandleader.-Biography:Claude Hopkins was born in Alexandria, Virginia in 1903. Historians differ in respect of the actual date of his birth. His parents were on the faculty of Howard University...

, Phil Wurd, Caroline Thornton, Luckey Roberts
Luckey Roberts
Charles Luckeyeth Roberts, better known as Luckey Roberts was an American composer and stride pianist who worked in the jazz, ragtime, and blues styles.-Biography:...

, Eubie Blake
Eubie Blake
James Hubert Blake was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, Blake and long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans...

, Joe Rochester, and Harvey Brooks.

Ellington began listening to, watching, and imitating ragtime pianists, not only in Washington, D.C., but in Philadelphia and Atlantic City, where he vacationed with his mother during the summer months. Dunbar High School
Dunbar High School (Washington, D.C.)
Dunbar High School is a public secondary school located in Washington, D.C., United States. The school is located in the Truxton Circle neighborhood of Northwest Washington, two blocks from the intersection of New Jersey and New York Avenues...

 music teacher Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony. With the additional guidance of Washington pianist and band leader Oliver "Doc" Perry, Ellington learned to read sheet music
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

, project a professional style, and improve his technique. Ellington was also inspired by his first encounters with stride pianists James P. Johnson
James P. Johnson
James P. Johnson was an American pianist and composer...

 and Luckey Roberts
Luckey Roberts
Charles Luckeyeth Roberts, better known as Luckey Roberts was an American composer and stride pianist who worked in the jazz, ragtime, and blues styles.-Biography:...

. Later in New York he took advice from Will Marion Cook
Will Marion Cook
William Mercer Cook , better known as Will Marion Cook, was an African American composer and violinist from the United States. Cook was a student of Antonín Dvořák and performed for King George V among others...

, Fats Waller
Fats Waller
Fats Waller , born Thomas Wright Waller, was a jazz pianist, organist, composer, singer, and comedic entertainer...

, and Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer.He was one of the first important soloists in jazz , and was perhaps the first notable jazz saxophonist...

. Ellington started to play gigs in cafés and clubs in and around Washington, D.C. and his attachment grew to be so strong that he turned down an art scholarship to the Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute is a private art college in New York City located in Brooklyn, New York, with satellite campuses in Manhattan and Utica. Pratt is one of the leading undergraduate art schools in the United States and offers programs in Architecture, Graphic Design, History of Art and Design,...

 in Brooklyn in 1916. Three months before graduating he dropped out of Armstrong Manual Training School, where he was studying commercial art.

From 1917 through 1919, Ellington launched his musical career, painting commercial signs by day and playing piano by night. Through his day job, Duke's entrepreneurial side came out: when a customer would ask him to make a sign for a dance or party, he would ask them if they had musical entertainment; if not, Ellington would ask if he could play for them. He also had a messenger job with the U.S. Navy and State Departments. 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 1917 formed his first group, "The Duke’s Serenaders" ("Colored Syncopators", his telephone directory advertising proclaimed). He was not only a member, but also the booking agent. His first play date was at the True Reformer's Hall, where he took home 75 cents.

Ellington played throughout the Washington, D.C. area and into Virginia for private society balls and embassy parties. The band included Otto Hardwick
Otto Hardwick
Otto James "Toby" Hardwicke was a saxophone player associated with Duke Ellington.-Biography:Hardwick started on string bass at the age of 14, then moved to C-melody sax and finally settled on alto saxophone. A childhood friend of Duke Ellington's, Hardwick joined Ellington's first band in...

, who switched from bass to saxophone; Arthur Whetsol
Arthur Whetsol
Arthur Whetsel was an early "sweet" trumpeter for Duke Ellington's Washingtonians.Leaving the band in 1923 to study medicine, he returned in 1928 to perform on a number of Ellington's most recognizable pieces during Ellington's stint at the Cotton Club, including "Black Beauty", "Black and Tan",...

 on trumpet; Elmer Snowden
Elmer Snowden
Elmer Snowden was a banjo player of the jazz age. He also played guitar and, in the early stages of his career, all the reed instruments. He contributed greatly to jazz in its early days as both a player and a bandleader, and is responsible for launching the careers of many top musicians...

 on banjo; and Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer was an American jazz drummer, best known for his work with Duke Ellington.Greer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and played with Elmer Snowden's band and the Howard Theatre's orchestra in Washington, D.C. before joining Duke Ellington, who he met in 1919...

 on drums. The band thrived, performing for both African-American and white audiences, a rarity during the racially divided times.

Early career


When his drummer Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer
Sonny Greer was an American jazz drummer, best known for his work with Duke Ellington.Greer was born in Long Branch, New Jersey, and played with Elmer Snowden's band and the Howard Theatre's orchestra in Washington, D.C. before joining Duke Ellington, who he met in 1919...

 was invited to join the Wilber Sweatman Orchestra in New York City, Ellington made the fateful decision to leave behind his successful career in Washington, D.C., and move to Harlem
Harlem
Harlem is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Manhattan, which since the 1920s has been a major African-American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands...

, becoming one of the figures of the Harlem Renaissance
Harlem Renaissance
The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned the 1920s and 1930s. At the time, it was known as the "New Negro Movement", named after the 1925 anthology by Alain Locke...

. New dance crazes like the Charleston
Charleston (dance)
The Charleston is a dance named for the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina. The rhythm was popularized in mainstream dance music in the United States by a 1923 tune called "The Charleston" by composer/pianist James P. Johnson which originated in the Broadway show Runnin' Wild and became one...

 emerged in Harlem, as well as African-American musical theater, including Eubie Blake
Eubie Blake
James Hubert Blake was an American composer, lyricist, and pianist of ragtime, jazz, and popular music. In 1921, Blake and long-time collaborator Noble Sissle wrote the Broadway musical Shuffle Along, one of the first Broadway musicals to be written and directed by African Americans...

's Shuffle Along
Shuffle Along
Shuffle Along is the first major successful African American musical. Written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, the musical premiered on Broadway in 1921.-Plot:...

. 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 Willie "The Lion" Smith who introduced them to the scene and gave them some money. They played at rent-house parties
Rent party
A rent party is a social occasion where tenants hire a musician or band to play and pass the hat to raise money to pay their rent, originating in Harlem during the 1920s. The rent party played a major role in the development of jazz and blues music...

 for income. After a few months the young musicians returned to Washington, D.C., feeling discouraged.

In June 1923 a gig in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Atlantic City is a city in Atlantic County, New Jersey, United States, and a nationally renowned resort city for gambling, shopping and fine dining. The city also served as the inspiration for the American version of the board game Monopoly. Atlantic City is located on Absecon Island on the coast...

, led to a play date at the prestigious Exclusive Club in Harlem. This was followed in September 1923 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. The group was called Elmer Snowden and his Black Sox Orchestra and had seven members, including James "Bubber" Miley. They renamed themselves "The Washingtonians". Snowden left the group in early 1924 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"), an engagement which set the stage for the biggest opportunities in Ellington's life.

Ellington made eight records in 1924, receiving composing credit on three including Choo Choo. In 1925 Ellington contributed four songs to Chocolate Kiddies, an all-African-American revue which introduced European audiences to African-American styles and performers. "Duke Ellington and his Kentucky Club Orchestra" grew to a ten-piece organization; they developed their distinct 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
Sidney Bechet
Sidney Bechet was an American jazz saxophonist, clarinetist, and composer.He was one of the first important soloists in jazz , and was perhaps the first notable jazz saxophonist...

 played with the group, imparting his propulsive swing and superior musicianship to the young band members. This helped attract the attention of some of the biggest names of jazz, including Paul Whiteman
Paul Whiteman
Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American bandleader and orchestral director.Leader of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s, Whiteman's recordings were immensely successful, and press notices often referred to him as the "King of Jazz"...

.

In 1927 King Oliver turned down a regular booking for his group as the house band at Harlem's Cotton Club
Cotton Club
The Cotton Club was a famous night club in Harlem, New York City that operated during Prohibition that included jazz music. While the club featured many of the greatest African American entertainers of the era, such as Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, Adelaide Hall, Count Basie, Bessie Smith,...

; the offer passed to Ellington. With a weekly radio broadcast and famous white clientele nightly pouring in to see them, Ellington and his band thrived in the period from 1932 to 1942, a golden age for the band.

Ellington was joined in New York City by his wife, Edna Thompson, and son Mercer in the late twenties, but the couple soon permanently separated. According to her obituary in Jet magazine, she was "[h]omesick for Washington" and returned (she died in 1967).

Although trumpeter Bubber Miley was a member of the orchestra for only a short period, he had a major influence on Ellington's sound. An early exponent of growl trumpet, his style changed the "sweet" dance band sound of the group to one that was hotter, which contemporaries termed 'jungle' style. He also composed most of "Black and Tan Fantasy" and "Creole Love Call
Creole Love Call
"Creole Love Call" is a jazz standard, most associated with the Duke Ellington band.Ellington first recorded it in 1927 and was issued a copyright for it as composer the following year. However the main melody appears earlier in the Joe "King" Oliver composition "Camp Meeting Blues" which Oliver...

". An alcoholic, Miley had to leave the band before they gained wider fame. He died in 1932 at the age of 29. He was an important influence on Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Charles Melvin "Cootie" Williams was an American jazz, jump blues, and rhythm and blues trumpeter.-Biography:...

, who replaced him.

In 1927 Ellington made a career-advancing agreement with agent-publisher Irving Mills
Irving Mills
Irving Mills was a jazz music publisher, also known by the name of "Joe Primrose."Mills was born to Jewish parents in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in New York City. He founded Mills Music with his brother Jack in 1919...

, giving Mills a 45% interest in Ellington's future. Mills had an eye for new talent and early on published compositions by Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichael
Howard Hoagland "Hoagy" Carmichael was an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. He is best known for writing "Stardust", "Georgia On My Mind", "The Nearness of You", and "Heart and Soul", four of the most-recorded American songs of all time.Alec Wilder, in his study of the...

, Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields was an American librettist and lyricist.She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films...

, and Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen was an American composer of popular music, having written over 500 songs, a number of which have become known the world over. In addition to composing the songs for The Wizard of Oz, including the classic 1938 song, "Over the Rainbow,” Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the...

. During the 1930s Ellington's popularity continued to increase – largely as a result of the promotional skills of Mills – who got more than his fair share of co-composer credits. From the beginning of their relationship, Mills arranged recording sessions on nearly every label including Brunswick, Victor, Columbia, OKeh, Perfect, Pathe, the ARC/Plaza group of labels (Cameo, Romeo, Lincoln, Oriole, Domino, Jewel, Banner), Hit of the Week, and Columbia's cheaper labels (Harmony, Diva, Velvet Tone, Clarion) labels which gave Ellington popular recognition, as well giving Ellington's fans the opportunity of hearing multiple versions of the same song. Mills lifted the management burden from Ellington's shoulders, allowing him to focus on his band's sound and his compositions. Ellington ended his association with Mills in 1937, although he continued to record under Mills' banner through to 1940.

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. The musical numbers were composed by Jimmy McHugh
Jimmy McHugh
James Francis McHugh was a U.S. composer. One of the most prolific songwriters from the 1920s to the 1950s, he composed over 270 songs...

 and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields
Dorothy Fields was an American librettist and lyricist.She wrote over 400 songs for Broadway musicals and films...

 (later Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen
Harold Arlen was an American composer of popular music, having written over 500 songs, a number of which have become known the world over. In addition to composing the songs for The Wizard of Oz, including the classic 1938 song, "Over the Rainbow,” Arlen is a highly regarded contributor to the...

 and Ted Koehler
Ted Koehler
Ted L. Koehler was an American lyricist.-Life and career:Koehler was born in Washington, D.C. He started out as a photo-engraver but was attracted to the music business, where he started out as a theater pianist for silent films. He moved on to write for vaudeville shows and Broadway, and he also...

), with some Ellington originals mixed in. Weekly radio broadcasts from the club gave Ellington national exposure. In 1929 Ellington appeared in his first movie, a nineteen-minute all-African-American RKO short, Black and Tan, in which he played the hero "Duke". In the same year, The Cotton Club Orchestra appeared on stage for several months in Florenz Ziegfeld
Florenz Ziegfeld
Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. , , was an American Broadway impresario, notable for his series of theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies , inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris. He also produced the musical Show Boat...

's Show Girl, along with vaudeville stars Jimmy Durante
Jimmy Durante
James Francis "Jimmy" Durante was an American singer, pianist, comedian and actor. His distinctive clipped gravelly speech, comic language butchery, jazz-influenced songs, and large nose helped make him one of America's most familiar and popular personalities of the 1920s through the 1970s...

, Eddie Foy, Jr.
Eddie Foy, Jr.
Eddie Foy Jr. was an American character actor.Born Edwin Fitzgerald Jr. in New Rochelle, New York, the son of vaudevillian Eddie Foy and his third wife, Madeline Morando, he was one of the "Seven Little Foys" immortalized in the 1955 film of the same name...

, Al Jolson
Al Jolson
Al Jolson was an American singer, comedian and actor. In his heyday, he was dubbed "The World's Greatest Entertainer"....

, Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler
Ruby Keeler, born Ethel Hilda Keeler, was an actress, singer, and dancer most famous for her on-screen coupling with Dick Powell in a string of successful early musicals at Warner Brothers, particularly 42nd Street . From 1928 to 1940, she was married to singer Al Jolson...

, and with music and lyrics by George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 and Gus Kahn
Gus Kahn
Gustav Gerson Kahn was a musician, songwriter and lyricist.-Biography:Kahn was born in Koblenz, Germany in 1886. The family emigrated from there to the United States and moved to Chicago, Illinois in 1890...

. That feverish period also included numerous recordings, under the pseudonyms "Whoopee Makers", "The Jungle Band", "Harlem Footwarmers", and the "Ten Black Berries". In 1930 Ellington and his Orchestra connected with a whole different audience in a concert with Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Chevalier
Maurice Auguste Chevalier was a French actor, singer, entertainer and a noted Sprechgesang performer. He is perhaps best known for his signature songs, including Louise, Mimi, Valentine, and Thank Heaven for Little Girls and for his films including The Love Parade and The Big Pond...

 and they also performed at the Roseland Ballroom
Roseland Ballroom
The Roseland Ballroom is a multi-purpose hall, in a converted ice skating rink, with a colorful ballroom dancing pedigree, in New York City's theatre district, on West 52nd Street....

, "America's foremost ballroom". Noted composer Percy Grainger
Percy Grainger
George Percy Aldridge Grainger , known as Percy Grainger, was an Australian-born composer, arranger and pianist. In the course of a long and innovative career he played a prominent role in the revival of interest in British folk music in the early years of the 20th century. He also made many...

 was also an early admirer and supporter.

In 1929, when Ellington conducted the orchestra for Show Girl, he met Will Vodery
Will Vodery
Will Vodery was an African-American composer, conductor, orchestrator, and arranger, and one of the few black Americans of his time to make a name for himself as a composer on Broadway, working largely for Florenz Ziegfeld....

, Ziegfeld’s musical supervisor. In his 1946 biography, Duke Ellington, Barry Ulanov
Barry Ulanov
Barry Ulanov was an American writer.Ulanov's father was Nathan Ulanov, concertmaster in Arturo Toscanini's NBC Philharmonic. His father taught him violin, but after a car crash in which he broke both wrists, he ceased studying the instrument. He studied at Columbia University, taking his BA there...

 wrote:
As the Depression worsened, the recording industry was in crisis, dropping over 90% of its artists by 1933. Ellington and his orchestra survived the hard times by taking to the road in a series of tours. Radio exposure also helped maintain popularity. Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson
Ivie Anderson was an American jazz singer. She was best-known for her performances with Duke Ellington's orchestra between 1931 and 1942....

 was hired as their featured vocalist. Sonny Greer had been providing occasional vocals and continued to do in a cross-talk feature with Anderson. Ellington, however, later had many different vocalists, including Herb Jeffries (until 1943) and Al Hibbler
Al Hibbler
Albert George "Al" Hibbler was an American baritone vocalist, who sang with Duke Ellington's orchestra before having several pop hits as a solo artist. Some of his singing is classified as rhythm and blues, but he is best classified as a bridge between R&B and traditional pop music...

 (who replaced Jeffries in 1943 and continued until 1951).

Ellington led the orchestra by conducting from the keyboard using piano cues and visual gestures; very rarely did he conduct using a baton. As a bandleader Ellington was not a strict disciplinarian; he maintained control of his orchestra with a crafty combination of charm, humor, flattery, and astute psychology. 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.

While the band's United States audience remained mainly African-American in this period, the Cotton Club had a near-exclusive white clientele and the Ellington orchestra had a huge following overseas, exemplified by the success of their trip to England in 1933 and their 1934 visit to the European mainland. The English visit saw Ellington win praise from members of the 'serious' music community, including composer Constant Lambert
Constant Lambert
Leonard Constant Lambert was a British composer and conductor.-Early life:Lambert, the son of Russian-born Australian painter George Lambert, was educated at Christ's Hospital and the Royal College of Music...

, which gave a boost to Ellington's aspiration to compose longer works. For agent Mills it was a publicity triumph, as Ellington was now internationally known. On the band's tour through the segregated South in 1934, 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.

The death of Ellington's mother in 1935 led to a temporary hiatus in his career. Competition was also intensifying, as African-American and white swing bands began to receive popular attention, including those of Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

, Tommy Dorsey
Tommy Dorsey
Thomas Francis "Tommy" Dorsey, Jr. was an American jazz trombonist, trumpeter, composer, and bandleader of the Big Band era. He was known as "The Sentimental Gentleman of Swing", due to his smooth-toned trombone playing. He was the younger brother of bandleader Jimmy Dorsey...

, Jimmy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
James "Jimmy" Dorsey was a prominent American jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, trumpeter, composer, and big band leader. He was known as "JD"...

, Jimmie Lunceford
Jimmie Lunceford
James Melvin "Jimmie" Lunceford was an American jazz alto saxophonist and bandleader in the swing era.-Biography:...

, Benny Carter
Benny Carter
Bennett Lester Carter was an American jazz alto saxophonist, clarinetist, trumpeter, composer, arranger, and bandleader. He was a major figure in jazz from the 1930s to the 1990s, and was recognized as such by other jazz musicians who called him King...

, Earl Hines
Earl Hines
Earl Kenneth Hines, universally known as Earl "Fatha" Hines, was an American jazz pianist. Hines was one of the most influential figures in the development of modern jazz piano and, according to one source, is "one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz".-Early...

, Chick Webb
Chick Webb
William Henry Webb, usually known as Chick Webb was an American jazz and swing music drummer as well as a band leader.-Biography:...

, and Count Basie
Count Basie
William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

. Swing dancing became a youth phenomenon, particularly with white college audiences, and "danceability" drove record sales and bookings. Jukebox
Jukebox
A jukebox is a partially automated music-playing device, usually a coin-operated machine, that will play a patron's selection from self-contained media...

es proliferated nationwide, spreading the gospel of "swing". Ellington band could certainly swing, but Ellington's strengths were mood and nuance, and richness of composition; hence his statement "jazz is music; swing is business". Ellington countered with two developments. He made recordings of smaller groups (sextets, octets, and nonets) drawn from his then-15-man orchestra and he composed pieces intended to feature specific instrumentalist, as with "Jeep's Blues" for Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
John Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges was an American alto saxophonist, best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington's big band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years, except the period between 1932–1946 when Otto Hardwick generally played first chair...

, "Yearning for Love" for Lawrence Brown, "Trumpet in Spades" for Rex Stewart
Rex Stewart
Rex Stewart was an American jazz cornetist best known for his work with the Duke Ellington orchestra....

, "Echoes of Harlem" for Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Charles Melvin "Cootie" Williams was an American jazz, jump blues, and rhythm and blues trumpeter.-Biography:...

 and "Clarinet Lament" for Barney Bigard
Barney Bigard
Albany Leon Bigard, aka Barney Bigard, was an American jazz clarinetist and tenor saxophonist, though primarily known for the clarinet....

.

In 1937 Ellington returned to the Cotton Club which had relocated to the mid-town theater district. In the summer of that year, his father died, and due to many expenses, Ellington's finances were tight. Things improved in 1938 and he met and moved in with Cotton Club employee Beatrice "Evie" Ellis. After splitting with agent Irving Mills, he signed on with the William Morris Agency
William Morris Agency
WME is the largest talent agency in the world, with offices in Beverly Hills, New York City, Nashville, London, and Miami. WME represents elite artists from all facets of the entertainment industry, including motion pictures, television, music, theatre, publishing, and physical production...

. The 1930s ended with a very successful European tour just as World War II loomed.

Ellington delivered some huge hits during the 1930s, which greatly helped to build his overall reputation. Some of them include: "Mood Indigo
Mood Indigo
"Mood Indigo" is a jazz composition and song, with music by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard with lyrics by Irving Mills.-Disputed authorship:In a 1987 interview, Mitchell Parish claimed to have written the lyrics:...

" (1930), "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
"It Don't Mean a Thing " is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard. The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago's Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for...

" (1932), "Sophisticated Lady
Sophisticated Lady
"Sophisticated Lady" is a jazz standard, composed as an instrumental in 1932 by Duke Ellington and Irving Mills, to which words were added by Mitchell Parish. The words met with approval from Ellington, who described them as "wonderful—but not entirely fitted to my original conception".That...

" (1933), "Solitude
(In My) Solitude
" Solitude" is a 1934 jazz standard, composed by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Eddie DeLange and Irving Mills.- Notable recordings :* Paul Robeson, bass with orchestra. Recorded in London on October 18, 1937...

" (1934), "In a Sentimental Mood
In a Sentimental Mood
"In a Sentimental Mood" is a jazz composition by Duke Ellington which is also performed as a song. Ellington composed the piece in 1935 and recorded it with his orchestra the same year. Lyrics were later written for the tune by Irving Mills and Manny Kurtz. According to Ellington, the song was...

" (1935), "Caravan
Caravan (song)
"Caravan" is a jazz standard composed by Juan Tizol and first performed by Duke Ellington in 1937. Irving Mills wrote the lyrics, but he sometimes is not credited on the many instrumental versions. Its exotic sound interested exotica musicians; Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman both covered it. Woody...

" (1937), "I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart" (1938). "Take the "A" Train" which hit big in 1941, was written by Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn was an American composer, pianist and arranger, best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the "A" Train" and "Lush Life".-Early...

.

Strayhorn, originally hired as a lyricist, began his association with Ellington in 1939. Nicknamed "Swee' Pea" for his mild manner, Strayhorn soon became a vital member of the Ellington Organization. Ellington showed great fondness kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going 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". Strayhorn, with his training in classical music, not only contributed his original lyrics and music, but also arranged and polished many of Ellington's works, becoming a second Ellington or "Duke's doppelganger". 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.

Duke in the 1940s


The band reached a creative peak in the early 1940s, when Ellington and a small hand-picked group of his composers and arrangers wrote for an orchestra of distinctive voices who displayed tremendous creativity.

Some of the musicians created a sensation in their own right. The short-lived Jimmy Blanton
Jimmy Blanton
Jimmie Blanton was an influential American jazz double bassist. Blanton is credited with being the originator of pizzicato and bowed bass solos....

 transformed the use of double bass
Double bass
The double bass, also called the string bass, upright bass, standup bass or contrabass, is the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, with strings usually tuned to E1, A1, D2 and G2...

 in jazz, allowing it to function as a solo rather than a rhythm instrument alone. Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Benjamin Francis Webster , a.k.a. "The Brute" or "Frog," was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist. Webster, born in Kansas City, Missouri, was considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young...

, the Orchestra's first regular tenor saxophonist, started a rivalry with Johnny Hodges as the Orchestra's foremost voice in the sax section. Ray Nance
Ray Nance
Ray Willis Nance was a jazz trumpeter, violinist and singer.Nance is best known for his long association with Duke Ellington through most of the 1940s and 1950s, after he was hired to replace Cootie Williams in 1940...

 joined, replacing Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Charles Melvin "Cootie" Williams was an American jazz, jump blues, and rhythm and blues trumpeter.-Biography:...

 (who had "defected", contemporary wags claimed, to Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman
Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was an American jazz and swing musician, clarinetist and bandleader; widely known as the "King of Swing".In the mid-1930s, Benny Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America...

). Nance, however, added violin to the instrumental colors Ellington had at his disposal.

Three-minute masterpieces flowed from the minds of Ellington, Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn was an American composer, pianist and arranger, best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the "A" Train" and "Lush Life".-Early...

, Ellington's son Mercer Ellington
Mercer Ellington
Mercer Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington...

, Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. Williams wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements, and recorded more than one hundred records...

 and members of the Orchestra. "Cotton Tail
Cotton Tail
"Cotton Tail" is a 1940 composition by Duke Ellington. It is based on the rhythm changes from George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm". The first Ellington recording is notable for the driving tenor saxophone solo by Ben Webster. Originally an instrumental, "Cotton Tail" later had lyrics written for it by...

", "Main Stem", "Harlem Airshaft", "Sidewalks of New York (East Side, West Side)", "Jack the bear", and dozens of others date from this period.

Privately made recordings of Nance's first concert date, at Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo, North Dakota
Fargo is the largest city in the U.S. state of North Dakota and the county seat of Cass County. In 2010, its population was 105,549, and it had an estimated metropolitan population of 208,777...

, on November 7, 1940 by Jack Towers
Jack Towers
Jack Towers was in charge of radio broadcasting at the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 1952–1974 and became a noted remastering engineer of musical recordings after his retirement.-Biography:...

 and Dick Burris, are probably the most effective display of the band during this period. These recordings, later released as Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live
Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live
Duke Ellington at Fargo, 1940 Live is a 1978 release by American jazz band Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra of a 1940 recording of the band performing live at a dance in Fargo, North Dakota in the United States...

, are among the first of innumerable live performances which survive, made by enthusiasts or broadcasters, significantly expanding the Ellington discography.

Ellington's long-term aim became to extend the jazz form from the three-minute limit of the 78 rpm record
Gramophone record
A gramophone record, commonly known as a phonograph record , vinyl record , or colloquially, a record, is an analog sound storage medium consisting of a flat disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove...

 side, of which he was an acknowledged master. He had composed and recorded Creole Rhapsody as early as 1931 (issued as both sides of 12" record for Victor and both sides of a 10" record for Brunswick), and his tribute to his mother, "Reminiscing in Tempo," had filled four 10" record sides in 1935; however, it was not until the 1940s that this became a regular feature of Ellington's work.

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
Black, Brown, and Beige
Black, Brown and Beige is a jazz symphony written by Duke Ellington for his first concert at Carnegie Hall, on January 23, 1943. Ellington introduced it at Carnegie Hall as "a tone parallel to the history of the Negro in America." It was Ellington's longest and most ambitious...

" (1943), 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
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

 on January 23, 1943, beginning a series of concerts there suited to displaying Ellington's longer works. While some jazz musicians had played at Carnegie Hall before, few had performed anything as elaborate as Ellington’s work.

Unfortunately, starting a regular pattern, Ellington's longer works were generally not well-received. Jump for Joy, a full-length musical based on themes of African-American identity, debuted on July 10, 1941 at the Mayan Theater in Los Angeles. Although it had the support of the Hollywood establishment, and received mostly positive reviews, its socio-political outlook provoked a negative reaction among some members of the public. It ran for 122 performances until September 29, 1941, with a brief revival in November of that year. Its subject matter did not make it appealing to Broadway, despite Ellington's plans to take it there.

The settlement of the first recording ban of 1942–43 had a serious effect on all the big bands because of the increase in royalty payments to musicians which resulted from it. The financial viability of Ellington's Orchestra came under threat, though Ellington's income as a songwriter ultimately subsidized it. Ellington always spent lavishly and although he drew a respectable income from the Orchestra's operations, the band's income often just covered expenses.

The music industry's focus shifted away from the Big Bands to the work of solo vocalists such as the young Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

, Billie Holliday and mainstream groups like The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters were a highly successful close harmony singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. The group consisted of three sisters: contralto LaVerne Sophia Andrews , soprano Maxene Angelyn Andrews , and mezzo-soprano Patricia Marie "Patty" Andrews...

 as World War II drew to a close. While Ellington had featured some of the most talented singers of the day fronting his orchestra, he and his band took a back seat to no one, which set him down a path that put him increasingly at odds with the growing recording industry which was profiting from celebrity singers who were cheaper to keep than a big band, and produced bigger revenues.

By the mid 1940s, artists were creatively changing. One of Ellington's composer-arrangers, Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams
Mary Lou Williams was an American jazz pianist, composer, and arranger. Williams wrote hundreds of compositions and arrangements, and recorded more than one hundred records...

, left Ellington in 1943 and by 1945 was working with Dizzy Gillespie on a new form of jazz music, "Bebop."

Bebop
Bebop
Bebop differed drastically from the straightforward compositions of the swing era, and was instead characterized by fast tempos, asymmetrical phrasing, intricate melodies, and rhythm sections that expanded on their role as tempo-keepers...

 rebelled against mainstream jazz and the strict forms of which Ellington was perhaps its most well known standard-bearer. The music, which had redefined the American sound over 35 years, was about to be shaken up.

It would take another ten years for Bebop to begin catching on with jazz aficionados world-wide, but it was an early hit with club owners of smaller venues who could draw the jazz form's growing audiences in New York City at a fraction of the cost of hosting a big band, particularly one of Ellington's caliber. Newer, smaller bands and splinter forms of music increasingly put pressure on the bigger clubs who paid out increasingly more to maintain their big bands. Ellington's elite band was a costly enterprise that, along with his excessive personal spending, always teetered on the brink of break-even. The new music trends eventually pushed it over the edge and put Ellington out on the road in search of venues that could afford to showcase his music.

Bebop was also a huge shift for young talent, from Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....

 to John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz...

 to Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...

 who did not embrace Big Band and sought out new creative frontiers, redefining "modern" jazz music forever. Ellington did not recruit or embrace these new artists and change with the times.
In 1950, another emerging musical trend, the African-American popular music style known as Rhythm and Blues
Rhythm and blues
Rhythm and blues, often abbreviated to R&B, is a genre of popular African American music that originated in the 1940s. The term was originally used by record companies to describe recordings marketed predominantly to urban African Americans, at a time when "urbane, rocking, jazz based music with a...

 driven by a new generation of composers and musicians like Fats Domino
Fats Domino
Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino, Jr. is an American R&B and rock and roll pianist and singer-songwriter. He was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Creole was his first language....

 drew away young audiences from both the African-American and white communities, and ultimately unified those audiences as R&B morphed into Rock & Roll which expanded the cults of the singers from the Big Band era to the singer/songwriters from Domino to Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley
Elvis Aaron Presley was one of the most popular American singers of the 20th century. A cultural icon, he is widely known by the single name Elvis. He is often referred to as the "King of Rock and Roll" or simply "the King"....

 to Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly
Charles Hardin Holley , known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American singer-songwriter and a pioneer of rock and roll...

. Again, Ellington did not embrace the new musical form, leaving him further in the growing dust cloud of musical history.

Ellington continued on his own course through these tectonic shifts in the music business. He did not wholly resist trends while trying to turn out major works. The Kay Davis
Kay Davis
Katherine McDonald Wimp née Katherine McDonald stage name Kay Davis was an American jazz singer best known for her time with the Duke Ellington Orchestra....

 vocal feature "Transblucency" was an attempt to cater to the singer-centric music world. He still performed major extended compositions such as Harlem (1950), whose score he presented to music-loving President Harry Truman, but these works were rapidly becoming reflections of his greatness in the 1930s and 1940s, and not ground-breaking works that rattled the music world back into the Big Band camp.

In 1951, Ellington suffered a major loss of personnel, with Sonny Greer, Lawrence Brown, and most significantly Johnny Hodges
Johnny Hodges
John Cornelius "Johnny" Hodges was an American alto saxophonist, best known for his solo work with Duke Ellington's big band. He played lead alto in the saxophone section for many years, except the period between 1932–1946 when Otto Hardwick generally played first chair...

, leaving to pursue other ventures. Lacking overseas opportunities and motion picture appearances, Ellington's Orchestra survived on "one-nighters" and whatever else came their way.

By the summer of 1955 the band was performing for six weeks at the Aquacade in Flushing
Flushing, Queens
Flushing, founded in 1645, is a neighborhood in the north central part of the City of New York borough of Queens, east of Manhattan.Flushing was one of the first Dutch settlements on Long Island. Today, it is one of the largest and most diverse neighborhoods in New York City...

, New York, where Ellington is supposed to have "invented" a drink known as "The Tornado," the only alcoholic concoction that features his signature Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola
Coca-Cola is a carbonated soft drink sold in stores, restaurants, and vending machines in more than 200 countries. It is produced by The Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, and is often referred to simply as Coke...

 and sugar.

Ellington's 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. The introduction of the 33 1/3 rpm LP record and hi-fi phonograph though, did give new life to many of his older compositions. However by 1955, after three years of recording for Capitol
Capitol Records
Capitol Records is a major United States based record label, formerly located in Los Angeles, but operating in New York City as part of Capitol Music Group. Its former headquarters building, the Capitol Tower, is a major landmark near the corner of Hollywood and Vine...

, Ellington no longer had a regular recording affiliation.

Career revival


The music business' increasing factionization into specific forms of rock-and-roll, country, bluegrass, or jazz broke down into even more sub-sets, and opened the door for the second act in Duke Ellington's career. An international fascination with Jazz re-opened the door at record labels to artists like Ellington and Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

 who had found themselves out of step with the times for the last half-decade. The Ellington who was too big or too proud to change would now appear with a variety of artists from the different jazz forms.

Ellington's appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival
Newport Jazz Festival
The Newport Jazz Festival is a music festival held every summer in Newport, Rhode Island, USA. It was established in 1954 by socialite Elaine Lorillard, who, together with husband Louis Lorillard, financed the festival for many years. The couple hired jazz impresario George Wein to organize the...

 on July 7, 1956 returned him to wider prominence and exposed him to new audiences. The feature "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
"Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" is a big band jazz composition written in 1937 by Duke Ellington. In its early form, the two individual pieces, "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue," were recorded on both sides of a 78 rpm record....

", with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves
Paul Gonsalves
Paul Gonsalves, was an American jazz tenor saxophonist best known for his association with Duke Ellington. At the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, Gonsalves played a 27-chorus solo in the middle of Ellington's "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue"...

's six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band's book since 1937, but on this occasion nearly created a riot. The revived attention should not have surprised anyone – Hodges had returned to the fold the previous year, and Ellington's collaboration with Strayhorn had been renewed around the same time, under terms more amenable to the younger man. Such Sweet Thunder
Such Sweet Thunder
Such Sweet Thunder is a Duke Ellington album, released in 1957 . The record is a twelve part suite based on the work of William Shakespeare.-Track listing:#"Such Sweet Thunder" - 3:22...

(1957), based on Shakespeare's
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 plays and characters, and The Queen's Suite, dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II
Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Elizabeth II is the constitutional monarch of 16 sovereign states known as the Commonwealth realms: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize,...

, were products of the renewed impetus which the Newport appearance helped to create.

A new record contract with Columbia produced Ellington's best-selling LP Ellington at Newport
Ellington at Newport
Ellington at Newport is a 1956 jazz live album by Duke Ellington and his band, recording their historic 1956 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, a concert which revitalized Ellington's flagging career. Jazz promoter George Wein describes the 1956 concert as "the greatest performance of...

and yielded six years of recording stability under producer Irving Townsend
Irving Townsend
Irving Townsend was an American record producer and author. He is most famous for having produced, in March 1959, the Miles Davis album Kind of Blue, which at #12, is the highest-ranked jazz album on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and according to the RIAA, is the best-selling...

, who coaxed both commercial and artistic productions from Ellington. In 1957, CBS (Columbia's parent corporation) aired a live television production of A Drum Is a Woman
A Drum Is a Woman
A Drum Is a Woman is a musical allegory by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington, with many songs also written by Billy Strayhorn. It tells the story of Madam Zajj, the personification of African rhythm, and Carribee Joe, who has his roots firmly in the Jungle with his drums...

, an allegorical suite which received mixed reviews. Festival appearances at the new Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival
The Monterey Jazz Festival is one of the longest consecutively running jazz festivals. It debuted on October 3, 1958 and was founded by San Francisco jazz radio broadcaster Jimmy Lyons.-History:...

 and elsewhere provided venues for live exposure, and a European tour in 1958 was wildly received.

After a 25-year gap, Ellington (with Strayhorn) returned to work on film scores, this time for Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom crime drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver...

(1959) and Paris Blues
Paris Blues
Paris Blues is an American feature film filmed on location in Paris, starring Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musician Eddie Cook, and Paul Newman as trombone-playing Ram Bowen. The two men romance two vacationing American tourists, Connie Lampson and Lillian Corning respectively...

(1961). Ellington and Strayhorn, always looking for new musical territory, produced adaptations of John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck
John Ernst Steinbeck, Jr. was an American writer. He is widely known for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden and the novella Of Mice and Men...

's novel Sweet Thursday, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.-Biography:Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in...

's Peer Gynt. The late 1950s also saw Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

 record her Duke Ellington Songbook
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Song book is a 1957 album by the American jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald, accompanied by the Duke Ellington orchestra, focusing on Ellington's songs....

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
Great American Songbook
The Great American Songbook is a hypothetical construct that seeks to represent the best American songs of the 20th century principally from Broadway theatre, musical theatre, and Hollywood musicals, from the 1920s to 1960, including dozens of songs of enduring popularity...

".

Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
The Detroit Free Press is the largest daily newspaper in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The Sunday edition is entitled the Sunday Free Press. It is sometimes informally referred to as the "Freep"...

music critic Mark Stryker concludes that the work of Billy Strayhorn
Billy Strayhorn
William Thomas "Billy" Strayhorn was an American composer, pianist and arranger, best known for his successful collaboration with bandleader and composer Duke Ellington lasting nearly three decades. His compositions include "Chelsea Bridge", "Take the "A" Train" and "Lush Life".-Early...

 and Ellington in Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom crime drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver...

, the trial court drama film directed by Otto Preminger
Otto Preminger
Otto Ludwig Preminger was an Austro–Hungarian-American theatre and film director.After moving from the theatre to Hollywood, he directed over 35 feature films in a five-decade career. He rose to prominence for stylish film noir mysteries such as Laura and Fallen Angel...

 in 1959, is "indispensable, [although] . . . too sketchy to rank in the top echelon among Ellington-Strayhorn masterpiece suites like Such Sweet Thunder
Such Sweet Thunder
Such Sweet Thunder is a Duke Ellington album, released in 1957 . The record is a twelve part suite based on the work of William Shakespeare.-Track listing:#"Such Sweet Thunder" - 3:22...

and The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite is an album by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, recorded in New York City on 19 December to 21 December 1966. The nine compositions on the original album were all composed by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ; a 1995 reissue added four previously unreleased...

, but its most inspired moments are their equal." 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." The score avoided the cultural stereotypes which previously characterized jazz scores and rejected a strict adherence to visuals in ways that presaged the New Wave
French New Wave
The New Wave was a blanket term coined by critics for a group of French filmmakers of the late 1950s and 1960s, influenced by Italian Neorealism and classical Hollywood cinema. Although never a formally organized movement, the New Wave filmmakers were linked by their self-conscious rejection of...

 cinema of the ’60s".

In the early 1960s, Ellington embraced recording with artists who had been fierce rivals of the past, or who had been young artists from the Bebop beginnings whom he did not associate with. The Ellington and Count Basie
Count Basie
William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

 orchestras recorded together. During a period when he was between recording contracts he made records with Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

 (Roulette
Roulette Records
Roulette Records is an American record label, which was founded in late 1956, by George Goldner, Joe Kolsky, Morris Levy and Phil Khals, with creative control given to producers and songwriters Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore. Levy was appointed as director...

), Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Randolph Hawkins was an American jazz tenor saxophonist. Hawkins was one of the first prominent jazz musicians on his instrument. As Joachim E. Berendt explained, "there were some tenor players before him, but the instrument was not an acknowledged jazz horn"...

, John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John William Coltrane was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Working in the bebop and hard bop idioms early in his career, Coltrane helped pioneer the use of modes in jazz and later was at the forefront of free jazz...

 (both for Impulse
Impulse! Records
Impulse! Records was an American jazz record label, originally established in 1960 by producer Creed Taylor as a subsidiary of ABC-Paramount Records, based in New York City...

) and participated in a session with Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus Jr. was an American jazz musician, composer, bandleader, and civil rights activist.Mingus's compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third stream, free jazz, and classical music...

 and Max Roach
Max Roach
Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history...

 which produced the Money Jungle
Money Jungle
Money Jungle is a jazz album by Duke Ellington with Charles Mingus and Max Roach recorded on September 17, 1962 and released in February 1963 by United Artists Jazz....

(United Artists
United Artists Records
United Artists Records was a record label founded by Max E. Youngstein of United Artists in 1957 initially to distribute records of its movie soundtracks, though it soon branched out into recording music of a number of different genres.-History:...

) album.

Ironically, the singer most responsible for setting off the changes that brought an end to the big band era became Ellington's salvation. He signed to Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

's new Reprise label
Reprise Records
Reprise Records is an American record label, founded in 1960 by Frank Sinatra. It is owned by Warner Music Group, and operated through Warner Bros. Records.-Beginnings:...

. Musicians who had previously worked with Ellington returned to the Orchestra as members: Lawrence Brown in 1960 and Cootie Williams
Cootie Williams
Charles Melvin "Cootie" Williams was an American jazz, jump blues, and rhythm and blues trumpeter.-Biography:...

 in 1962.

The international mania for jazz reinstated Ellington as one of the highest earning artists in jazz. He performed all over the world; a significant part of each year was now spent making overseas tours.

He formed notable new working relationships with international artists from around the world, including the Swedish vocalist Alice Babs
Alice Babs
Alice Babs is a singer and actor from Kalmar in Sweden. While she has worked in a wide number of genres - e.g. Swedish folklore, Elizabethan songs and opera - she is best known internationally as a jazz singer...

, and South African musicians Dollar Brand
Abdullah Ibrahim
Abdullah Ibrahim , born Adolph Johannes Brand, 9 October 1934 in Cape Town, South Africa, and formerly known as Dollar Brand, is a South African pianist and composer...

 and Sathima Bea Benjamin
Sathima Bea Benjamin
Sathima Bea Benjamin , is a South African vocalist and composer born in Johannesburg, raised in Cape Town, and now based in New York City.-Early life:...

 (A Morning in Paris, 1963/1997).

His earlier hits became big sellers in the rediscovery of the music world-wide, earning Ellington impressive royalties.

"The writing and playing of music is a matter of intent.... You can't just throw a paint brush against the wall and call whatever happens art. My music fits the tonal personality of the player. I think too strongly in terms of altering my music to fit the performer to be impressed by accidental music. You can't take doodling seriously."


Last years


Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

 in 1965, but was turned down. His reaction at 67 years old: "Fate is being kind to me. Fate doesn't want me to be famous too young." In September of the same year, the first of his Sacred Concerts
Duke Ellington's Sacred Concerts
In the last decade of his life, Duke Ellington wrote three Sacred Concerts:* 1965 - A Concert of Sacred Music* 1968 - Second Sacred Concert* 1973 - Third Sacred Concert...

 was given its premiere. It was an attempt to fuse Christian liturgy with jazz, and even though it received mixed reviews, Ellington was proud of the composition and performed it dozens of times. This concert was followed by two others of the same type in 1968 and 1973, known as the Second and Third Sacred Concerts. This caused controversy in what was already a tumultuous time in the United States. Many saw the Sacred Music suites as an attempt to reinforce commercial support for organized religion, though Ellington simply said it was, "the most important thing I've done." The Steinway
Steinway & Sons
Steinway & Sons, also known as Steinway , is an American and German manufacturer of handmade pianos, founded 1853 in Manhattan in New York City by German immigrant Heinrich Engelhard Steinweg...

 piano upon which the Sacred Concerts were composed is part of the collection of the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History
National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History: Kenneth E. Behring Center collects, preserves and displays the heritage of the United States in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Among the items on display are the original Star-Spangled Banner and Archie Bunker's...

. Like Haydn
Joseph Haydn
Franz Joseph Haydn , known as Joseph Haydn , was an Austrian composer, one of the most prolific and prominent composers of the Classical period. He is often called the "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet" because of his important contributions to these forms...

 and Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

, Ellington conducted his orchestra from the piano – he always played the keyboard parts when the Sacred Concerts were performed.

Ellington continued to make vital and innovative recordings, including The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite is an album by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, recorded in New York City on 19 December to 21 December 1966. The nine compositions on the original album were all composed by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ; a 1995 reissue added four previously unreleased...

(1966), the New Orleans Suite (1970), and The Afro-Eurasian Eclipse (1971), much of it inspired by his world tours. It was during this time that Ellington recorded his only album with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, entitled Francis A. & Edward K.
Francis A. & Edward K.
Francis A. & Edward K. is a 1968 studio album by Frank Sinatra with Duke Ellington and his big band.This was the first time that Sinatra had worked with Ellington and the sessions were finished on Sinatra's fifty second birthday.-Track listing:...

(1967).

Ellington was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

 in 1966. He was later awarded several other prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

 in 1969, an Honorary PhD from the Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known primarily as a school for jazz, rock and popular music, it also offers college-level courses in a wide range of contemporary and historic styles, including hip...

 in 1971, and the Legion of Honor
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 by France in 1973, the highest civilian honors in each country.

Work in films and the theater


Ellington's film work began in 1929 with the short film Black and Tan. Symphony in Black
Symphony in Black
Symphony in Black: A Rhapsody of Negro Life is a musical short film featuring Duke Ellington's extended piece 'A Rhapsody of Negro Life.' Billie Holiday made her film debut, and Earl Snakehips Tucker also appeared...

(1935) featured his extended piece 'A Rhapsody of Negro Life'. It introduced Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday was an American jazz singer and songwriter. Nicknamed "Lady Day" by her friend and musical partner Lester Young, Holiday had a seminal influence on jazz and pop singing...

, and won an Academy Award as the best musical short subject. He also appeared in the Amos 'n' Andy
Amos 'n' Andy
Amos 'n' Andy is a situation comedy set in the African-American community. It was very popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s on both radio and television....

 film Check and Double Check
Check and Double Check
Check and Double Check is a 1930 comedy film made and released by RKO Pictures based on the then-popular Amos 'n' Andy radio show. The title was derived from a catchphrase associated with the show.-Production:...

(1930). Ellington and his Orchestra continued to appear in films through the 1930s and 1940s, both in short films and in features such as Murder at the Vanities
Murder at the Vanities
Murder at the Vanities is a musical film based on the 1933 Broadway musical with music by Victor Young, made in the pre-Code era, and released by Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Mitchell Leisen, stars Carl Brisson, Jack Oakie, Kitty Carlisle, Gertrude Michael, Toby Wing, and Jessie Ralph...

and Belle of the Nineties
Belle of the Nineties
Belle of the Nineties is Mae West's fourth motion picture, directed by Leo McCarey and released by Paramount Pictures. The film was based on West's original story It Ain't No Sin which was also to be the film's title until censors objected...

(1934), and Cabin in the Sky
Cabin in the Sky
Cabin in the Sky is a 1943 American musical film with music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by John La Touche, and a musical book by Lynn Root. The musical premiered on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on October 25, 1940. It closed on March 8, 1941 after a total of 156 performances...

(1943). In the late 1950s, his work in films took the shape of scoring
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

 for soundtracks, notably Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom crime drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver...

(1959), with James Stewart
James Stewart (actor)
James Maitland Stewart was an American film and stage actor, known for his distinctive voice and his everyman persona. Over the course of his career, he starred in many films widely considered classics and was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning one in competition and receiving one Lifetime...

, in which he appeared fronting a roadhouse combo, and Paris Blues
Paris Blues
Paris Blues is an American feature film filmed on location in Paris, starring Sidney Poitier as expatriate jazz musician Eddie Cook, and Paul Newman as trombone-playing Ram Bowen. The two men romance two vacationing American tourists, Connie Lampson and Lillian Corning respectively...

(1961), which featured Paul Newman
Paul Newman
Paul Leonard Newman was an American actor, film director, entrepreneur, humanitarian, professional racing driver and auto racing enthusiast...

 and Sidney Poitier
Sidney Poitier
Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE is a Bahamian American actor, film director, author, and diplomat.In 1963, Poitier became the first black person to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field...

 as jazz musicians.

He wrote an original score for director Michael Langham
Michael Langham
Michael Langham was an English actor and director, who spent much of his career living and working in Canada and the United States....

's production of Shakespeare's Timon of Athens
Timon of Athens
The Life of Timon of Athens is a play by William Shakespeare about the fortunes of an Athenian named Timon , generally regarded as one of his most obscure and difficult works...

at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada which opened on July 29, 1963. Langham has used it for several subsequent productions, most recently in an adaptation by Stanley Silverman which expands the score with some of Ellington's best-known works.

Ellington composed the score for the musical Jump For Joy, which was performed in Los Angeles during 1941. Ellington's sole book musical, Beggar's Holiday
Beggar's Holiday
Beggar's Holiday is a musical with a book and lyrics by John La Touche and music by Duke Ellington.An updated version of The Beggar's Opera by John Gay, it focuses on a corrupt world inhabited by rakish mobsters and their double crossing gangs, raffish madams and their dissolute whores, panhandlers...

, was staged on Broadway in 1946. Sophisticated Ladies
Sophisticated Ladies
Sophisticated Ladies is a musical revue based on the music of Duke Ellington.After fifteen previews, the Broadway production, conceived by Donald McKayle, directed by Michael Smuin, and choreographed by McKayle, Smuin, Henry LeTang, Bruce Heath, and Mercedes Ellington, opened on March 1, 1981 at...

, an award-winning 1981 musical revue, incorporated many tunes from his repertoire.

Personal life


Ellington married his high school sweetheart, Edna Thompson, on July 2, 1918, when he was 19. Shortly after their marriage, on March 11, 1919 Edna gave birth to their only son, Mercer Kennedy Ellington
Mercer Ellington
Mercer Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington...

. Mercer played trumpet, led his own band and worked as his father's business manager, eventually taking full control of the band after Duke's death. He was an important archivist of his father's musical life.

Ellington's sister Ruth (1915–2004) later ran Tempo Music, Ellington's music publishing company. Ruth's second husband was the bass-baritone McHenry Boatwright
McHenry Boatwright
McHenry Boatwright was an American operatic bass-baritone and singing teacher.He was born in Tennille, Georgia, in 1928, and studied piano and voice at the New England Conservatory, graduating in 1954. He made his debut at Tanglewood in 1953...

, whom she met when he sang at her brother's funeral.

Ellington's eldest grandson Edward Kennedy Ellington II also is a musician and maintains a small salaried band known as the Duke Ellington Legacy, which frequently comprises the core of the big band operated by The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts.

Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday, and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx
The Bronx
The Bronx is the northernmost of the five boroughs of New York City. It is also known as Bronx County, the last of the 62 counties of New York State to be incorporated...

, New York City. At his funeral, attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Jane Fitzgerald , also known as the "First Lady of Song" and "Lady Ella," was an American jazz and song vocalist...

 summed up the occasion, "It's a very sad day. A genius has passed." Mercer Ellington picked up the reins of the orchestra immediately after Duke's death. Ellington's last words were, "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered."

Legacy



Duke Ellington's work has come to be recognized as a cornerstone of American culture and heritage. He is widely regarded as the most important composer in jazz; he was also a galvanizing bandleader who inspired many of his musicians to produce their best work, whilst himself being a significant exponent of jazz piano. His works have been revisited by artists and musicians around the world both as a source of inspiration and a bedrock of their own performing careers. Ellington's compositions are now the staple of the repertoire of music conservatories, and even high school band programs that have embraced his music continue to give it life and voice.

His son, Mercer Ellington
Mercer Ellington
Mercer Kennedy Ellington was an American jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger.Ellington was born in Washington, DC, the son of famous composer, pianist, and bandleader Duke Ellington...

 kept his big band alive after his passing. When Mercer died, Paul Ellington kept the Duke Ellington Orchestra going. It plays in concert halls around the world to this day.

Memorials



Numerous memorials have been dedicated to Duke Ellington, in cities from New York and Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles.

In Ellington's birthplace of Washington, D.C., there is a school dedicated to his honor and memory as well as one of the bridges over Rock Creek Park. The Duke Ellington School of the Arts
Duke Ellington School of the Arts
The Duke Ellington School of the Arts is a high school located at 35th Street and R Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C., and dedicated to arts education. One of the high schools of the District of Columbia Public School system, it is named for the American jazz bandleader and composer Edward...

 educates talented students, who are considering careers in the arts, by providing intensive arts instruction and strong academic programs that prepare students for post-secondary education and professional careers. The Calvert Street Bridge was renamed the Duke Ellington Bridge
Duke Ellington Bridge
The Duke Ellington Bridge, named after Duke Ellington, carries Calvert Street NW over Rock Creek in Washington, D.C., United States. It connects 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan with Connecticut Avenue NW in Woodley Park, just north of the Taft Bridge....

; built in 1935, it connects Woodley Park to Adams Morgan
Adams Morgan
Adams Morgan is a culturally diverse neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C., centered at the intersection of 18th Street and Columbia Road. Adams Morgan is considered the center of Washington's Hispanic immigrant community, and is a major night life area with many bars and restaurants,...

.

On February 24, 2009, the United States Mint
United States Mint
The United States Mint primarily produces circulating coinage for the United States to conduct its trade and commerce. The Mint was created by Congress with the Coinage Act of 1792, and placed within the Department of State...

 launched a new coin featuring Duke Ellington, making him the first African-American to appear by himself on a circulating U.S. coin. Ellington appears on the reverse ("tails") side of the District of Columbia
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

 quarter
Quarter (United States coin)
A quarter dollar, commonly shortened to quarter, is a coin worth ¼ of a United States dollar, or 25 cents. The quarter has been produced since 1796. The choice of 25¢ as a denomination, as opposed to 20¢ which is more common in other parts of the world, originated with the practice of dividing...

. The coin is part of the U.S. Mint's program honoring the District and the U.S. territories
District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarter Program
The District of Columbia and United States Territories Quarter Program was a one-year coin program of the United States Mint that saw quarters being minted in 2009 to honor the District of Columbia and the unincorporated United States insular areas of Puerto Rico, Guam, United States Virgin...

 and celebrates Ellington's birthplace in the District of Columbia. Ellington is depicted on the quarter seated at a piano, sheet music in hand, along with the inscription "Justice for All", which is the District's motto.

Ellington lived for years in a townhouse on the corner of Manhattan's Riverside Drive
Riverside Drive (Manhattan)
Riverside Drive is a scenic north-south thoroughfare in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The boulevard runs on the west side of Manhattan, generally parallel to the Hudson River from 72nd Street to near the George Washington Bridge at 181st Street...

 and West 106th Street. After his death, West 106th Street was officially renamed Duke Ellington Boulevard. A large memorial to Ellington, created by sculptor Robert Graham
Robert Graham (sculptor)
Robert Graham was a sculptor based in the state of California in the United States. His monumental bronzes commemorate the human figure and are featured in public places across America.-Biography:...

, was dedicated in 1997 in New York's Central Park
Central Park
Central Park is a public park in the center of Manhattan in New York City, United States. The park initially opened in 1857, on of city-owned land. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux won a design competition to improve and expand the park with a plan they entitled the Greensward Plan...

, near Fifth Avenue
Fifth Avenue (Manhattan)
Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare in the center of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York, United States. The section of Fifth Avenue that crosses Midtown Manhattan, especially that between 49th Street and 60th Street, is lined with prestigious shops and is consistently ranked among...

 and 110th Street
110th Street (Manhattan)
110th Street is a street in the New York City borough of Manhattan. It is commonly known as the boundary between Harlem and Central Park, along which it is known as Central Park North. In the west, it is also known as Cathedral Parkway....

, an intersection named Duke Ellington Circle.

Although he made two more stage appearances before his death, Ellington performed what is considered his final "full" concert in a ballroom at Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University is a state university and research institution located in DeKalb, Illinois, with satellite centers in Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Rockford, and Oregon. It was originally founded as Northern Illinois State Normal School on May 22, 1895 by Illinois Governor John P...

 on March 20, 1974. The hall was renamed the Duke Ellington Ballroom in 1980.

A statue of Ellington at a piano is featured at the entrance to UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. According to UCLA Magazine:
He is one of only five jazz musicians ever to have been featured on the cover of Time (the other four being Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...

, Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Learson Marsalis is a trumpeter, composer, bandleader, music educator, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has promoted the appreciation of classical and jazz music often to young audiences...

, and Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
David Warren "Dave" Brubeck is an American jazz pianist. He has written a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke". Brubeck's style ranges from refined to bombastic, reflecting his mother's attempts at classical training and his improvisational skills...

).

The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival
Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition and Festival
The Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition & Festival is an annual high school jazz festival and competition that takes place every May at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The festival is aimed at encouraging young musicians to play music by Duke Ellington and other...

 is a nationally renowned annual competition for prestigious high school bands. Started in 1996 at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz at Lincoln Center is part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. JALC's performing arts complex, Frederick P. Rose Hall, is located at West 60th Street and Broadway in New York City, slightly south of the main Lincoln Center campus and directly adjacent to Columbus Circle. Frederick P....

, the festival is named after Ellington because of the large focus that the festival places on his works.

Tributes


  • Sathima Bea Benjamin
    Sathima Bea Benjamin
    Sathima Bea Benjamin , is a South African vocalist and composer born in Johannesburg, raised in Cape Town, and now based in New York City.-Early life:...

     – the South African vocalist wrote "Gift of Love", in memory of Duke Ellington, for her 1987 album Love Light.
  • Dave Brubeck
    Dave Brubeck
    David Warren "Dave" Brubeck is an American jazz pianist. He has written a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke". Brubeck's style ranges from refined to bombastic, reflecting his mother's attempts at classical training and his improvisational skills...

     – dedicated "The Duke" (1954) to Ellington and it became a standard covered by others, both during Ellington's lifetime (such as by Miles Davis
    Miles Davis
    Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz,...

      on Miles Ahead
    Miles Ahead
    Miles Ahead is a jazz album by Miles Davis that was released in 1957 on Columbia CL 1041. This was the first album following Birth of the Cool that Davis recorded with Gil Evans, with whom he would go on to release albums such as Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain...

    , 1957) and posthumously (such as George Shearing
    George Shearing
    Sir George Shearing, OBE was an Anglo-American jazz pianist who for many years led a popular jazz group that recorded for MGM Records and Capitol Records. The composer of over 300 titles, he had multiple albums on the Billboard charts during the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s...

     on I Hear a Rhapsody: Live at the Blue Note, 1992). The album The Real Ambassadors
    The Real Ambassadors
    The Real Ambassadors is a jazz musical developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s by Dave and Iola Brubeck, in collaboration with Louis Armstrong and his band. It addressed the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the music business, America’s place in the world during the Cold War, the nature of God, and...

     has a vocal version of this piece, You Swing Baby (The Duke), with lyrics by Iola Brubeck, Dave's wife. It is performed as a duet between Louis Armstrong
    Louis Armstrong
    Louis Armstrong , nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, was an American jazz trumpeter and singer from New Orleans, Louisiana....

     and Carmen McRae
    Carmen McRae
    Carmen Mercedes McRae was an American jazz singer, composer, pianist, and actress. Considered one of the most influential jazz vocalists of the 20th century, it was her behind-the-beat phrasing and her ironic interpretations of song lyrics that made her memorable...

    . It is also dedicated to Duke Ellington.
  • Tony Bennett
    Tony Bennett
    Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

     frequently altered the lyrics to "Lullaby of Broadway" in live performance, to sing, "You rock-a-bye your baby 'round/to Ellington or Basie
    Count Basie
    William "Count" Basie was an American jazz pianist, organist, bandleader, and composer. Basie led his jazz orchestra almost continuously for nearly 50 years...

    ," as a personal tribute to the two jazz masters.
  • Judy Collins
    Judy Collins
    Judith Marjorie "Judy" Collins is an American singer and songwriter, known for her eclectic tastes in the material she records ; and for her social activism. She is an alumna of the University of Colorado.-Musical career:Collins was born and raised in Seattle, Washington...

     – wrote "Song For Duke" in 1975, and included it on her album Judith
    Judith (album)
    Judith was Judy Collins' best-selling album from 1975. It peaked at No 17 on the Billboard Pop Albums charts.It includes Collins' hit recording of Stephen Sondheim's "Send in the Clowns", as well as material by Steve Goodman, Jimmy Webb, the Rolling Stones, and the standard "Brother, Can You Spare...

    .
  • Miles Davis
    Miles Davis
    Miles Dewey Davis III was an American jazz musician, trumpeter, bandleader, and composer. Widely considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Miles Davis was, with his musical groups, at the forefront of several major developments in jazz music, including bebop, cool jazz,...

     – one month after Ellington's death, created his half-hour dedicated dirge "He Loved Him Madly" (1974) collected on Get Up with It
    Get Up with It
    Get Up with It is an album collecting tracks recorded between 1970 and 1974 by Miles Davis. Released on November 22, 1974 as a double LP, it was Davis' last studio album before five years of retirement from music....

    .
  • The jazz-influenced band Steely Dan
    Steely Dan
    Steely Dan is an American rock band; its core members are Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. The band's popularity peaked in the late 1970s, with the release of seven albums blending elements of jazz, rock, funk, R&B, and pop...

     recorded a note-for-note version of an early Ellington standard, "East St. Louis Toodle-oo," on their album Pretzel Logic
    Pretzel Logic
    Pretzel Logic is the third studio album by the American jazz-rock band Steely Dan, originally released in 1974. The album's opening song, "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", became the band's biggest hit, reaching #4 on the charts soon after the release of the album. The album itself went gold, and...

    , released in 1974, using treated slide guitars to re-create the plunger-muted "jungle sound" of the original Ellington horns.
  • Stevie Wonder
    Stevie Wonder
    Stevland Hardaway Morris , better known by his stage name Stevie Wonder, is an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer and activist...

     – wrote the song "Sir Duke
    Sir Duke
    "Sir Duke" is a song composed and performed by Stevie Wonder, from his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life. Released as a single in 1977, the track topped the U.S...

    " as a tribute to Ellington in 1976.
  • Charles Mingus
    Charles Mingus
    Charles Mingus Jr. was an American jazz musician, composer, bandleader, and civil rights activist.Mingus's compositions retained the hot and soulful feel of hard bop and drew heavily from black gospel music while sometimes drawing on elements of Third stream, free jazz, and classical music...

     – composed "Open Letter to Duke" and "Duke Ellington's Sound of Love"
  • Lorraine Feather
    Lorraine Feather
    -History:Lorraine Feather was born in Manhattan. Her father was jazz writer Leonard Feather; her mother Jane was a former big band singer and ex-roommate of singer Peggy Lee...

     – has composed lyrics to many of Ellington's instrumental compositions,recorded on CD's including "Dooji Wooji" and "Such Sweet Thunder."
  • The Modern Jazz Quartet composed two original Ellington tributes for their album For Ellington.


There are hundreds of albums dedicated to the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn by artists famous and obscure. The more notable artists include Sonny Stitt
Sonny Stitt
Edward "Sonny" Stitt was an American jazz saxophonist of the bebop/hard bop idiom. He was also one of the best-documented saxophonists of his generation, recording over 100 albums in his lifetime...

, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...

, Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

, Claude Bolling
Claude Bolling
Claude Bolling , is a renowned French jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and occasional actor.He was born in Cannes, studied at the Nice Conservatory, then in Paris. A child prodigy, by age 14 he was playing jazz piano professionally, with Lionel Hampton, Roy Eldridge, and Kenny Clarke...

, Oscar Peterson
Oscar Peterson
Oscar Emmanuel Peterson was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. He was called the "Maharaja of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, "O.P." by his friends. He released over 200 recordings, won seven Grammy Awards, and received other numerous awards and honours over the course of his career...

, Toshiko Akiyoshi
Toshiko Akiyoshi
is a Japanese American jazz pianist, composer/arranger and bandleader. Among a very few successful female instrumentalists of her generation in jazz, she is also recognized as a major figure in jazz composition. She has received 14 Grammy nominations, and she was the first woman to win the Best...

, Dick Hyman
Dick Hyman
Richard “Dick” Hyman is an American jazz pianist/keyboardist and composer, best-known for his versatility with jazz piano styles. Over a 50 year career, he has functioned as pianist, organist, arranger, music director, and, increasingly, as composer...

, Joe Pass
Joe Pass
Joe Pass was an Italian-American jazz guitarist of Sicilian descent. He is generally considered to be one of the greatest jazz guitarists of the 20th century...

, Milt Jackson
Milt Jackson
Milton "Bags" Jackson was an American jazz vibraphonist, usually thought of as a bebop player, although he performed in several jazz idioms...

, Earl Hines
Earl Hines
Earl Kenneth Hines, universally known as Earl "Fatha" Hines, was an American jazz pianist. Hines was one of the most influential figures in the development of modern jazz piano and, according to one source, is "one of a small number of pianists whose playing shaped the history of jazz".-Early...

, André Previn
André Previn
André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

, World Saxophone Quartet
World Saxophone Quartet
The World Saxophone Quartet is a jazz ensemble founded in 1977, implementing elements of free funk and African jazz into their musical routines.-History:...

, Ben Webster
Ben Webster
Benjamin Francis Webster , a.k.a. "The Brute" or "Frog," was an influential American jazz tenor saxophonist. Webster, born in Kansas City, Missouri, was considered one of the three most important "swing tenors" along with Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young...

, Zoot Sims
Zoot Sims
John Haley "Zoot" Sims was an American jazz saxophonist, playing mainly tenor and soprano.-Biography:He was born in Inglewood, California, the son of vaudeville performers Kate Haley and John Sims. Growing up in a performing family, Sims learned to play both drums and clarinet at an early age...

, Kenny Burrell
Kenny Burrell
Kenneth Earl "Kenny" Burrell is an American jazz guitarist. His playing is grounded in bebop and blues; he has performed and recorded with a wide range of jazz musicians.-Biography:...

, Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, Martial Solal
Martial Solal
Martial Solal is a French jazz pianist and composer, who is probably most widely known for the music he wrote for Jean-Luc Godard's debut feature film À bout de souffle .-Biography:...

, Clark Terry
Clark Terry
Clark Terry is an American swing and bop trumpeter, a pioneer of the fluegelhorn in jazz, educator, NEA Jazz Masters inductee, and recipient of the 2010 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award...

 and Randy Weston
Randy Weston
Randy Weston , is an American jazz pianist and composer, of Jamaican parentage.-Biography:Weston studied classical piano as a child. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he ran a restaurant that was frequented by many of the leading bebop musicians...

.

Homage from critics


Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller
Gunther Schuller is an American composer, conductor, horn player, author, historian, and jazz musician.- Biography and works :...

 wrote, "Ellington composed incessantly to the very last days of his life. Music was indeed his mistress; it was his total life and his commitment to it was incomparable and unalterable. In jazz he was a giant among giants. And in twentieth century music, he may yet one day be recognized as one of the half-dozen greatest masters of our time."

Martin Williams
Martin Williams
Martin T. Williams was born in Richmond, Virginia. He was a critic, specializing in jazz and American popular culture. He wrote for major jazz magazines, notably Down Beat, cofounded and coedited The Jazz Review, and wrote many books on jazz, summing up his understanding of its history in The Jazz...

 said "Duke Ellington lived long enough to hear himself named among our best composers. And since his death in 1974, it has become not at all uncommon to see him named, along with Charles Ives
Charles Ives
Charles Edward Ives was an American modernist composer. He is one of the first American composers of international renown, though Ives' music was largely ignored during his life, and many of his works went unperformed for many years. Over time, Ives came to be regarded as an "American Original"...

, as the greatest composer we have produced, regardless of category."

In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante
Molefi Kete Asante
Molefi Kete Asante is an African-American scholar, historian, and philosopher. He is a leading figure in the fields of African American studies, African Studies and Communication Studies...

 listed Duke Ellington on his list of 100 Greatest African Americans
100 Greatest African Americans
100 Greatest African Americans is a biographical dictionary of the one hundred historically greatest African Americans , as assessed by Molefi Kete Asante in 2002.-Criteria:...

.

Andre Previn
André Previn
André George Previn, KBE is an American pianist, conductor, and composer. He is considered one of the most versatile musicians in the world, and is the winner of four Academy Awards for his film work and ten Grammy Awards for his recordings. -Early Life:Previn was born in...

 said, "You know, Stan Kenton
Stan Kenton
Stanley Newcomb "Stan" Kenton was a pianist, composer, and arranger who led a highly innovative, influential, and often controversial American jazz orchestra. In later years he was widely active as an educator....

 can stand in front of a thousand fiddles and a thousand brass and make a dramatic gesture and every studio arranger can nod his head and say, ‘‘Oh, yes, that’s done like this.’’ But Duke merely lifts his finger, three horns
make a sound, and I don’t know what it is!"

Grammy Awards


Ellington earned 12 Grammy awards from 1959 to 2000, three of which were posthumous.
Duke Ellington Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

 History
Year Category Title Genre Result
1999 Historical Album The Duke Ellington Centennial Edition
RCA Victor Recordings (1927–1973)
Jazz Winner
1979 Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band Duke Ellington At Fargo, 1940 Live Jazz Winner
1976 Best Jazz Performance By A Big Band The Ellington Suites
The Ellington Suites
The Ellington Suites is a studio album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington which collects three suites recorded in 1959, 1971 & 1972 released on the Pablo label in 1976.. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band in 1976...

Jazz Winner
1972 Best Jazz Performance By A Big Band Togo Brava Suite
Togo Brava Suite
Togo Brava Suite is a live album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded in England and released on the United Artists label in 1971. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band in 1972...

Jazz Winner
1971 Best Jazz Performance By A Big Band New Orleans Suite
New Orleans Suite
New Orleans Suite is a studio album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded and released on the Atlantic label in 1970.. The album features the final recordings of Johnny Hodges who died between recording sessions...

Jazz Winner
1968 Best Instrumental Jazz Performance – Large Group
Or Soloist With Large Group
...And His Mother Called Him Bill Jazz Winner
1967 Best Instrumental Jazz Performance, Large Group
Or Soloist With Large Group
Far East Suite
The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite is an album by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, recorded in New York City on 19 December to 21 December 1966. The nine compositions on the original album were all composed by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ; a 1995 reissue added four previously unreleased...

Jazz Winner
1966 Best Original Jazz Composition "In The Beginning God" Jazz Winner
1965 Best Instrumental Jazz Performance -
Large Group Or Soloist With Large Group
Ellington '66
Ellington '66
Ellington '66 is an album by American pianist, composer and bandleader Duke Ellington recorded and released on the Reprise label in 1965. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Jazz Performance - Large Group or Soloist with Large Group in 1966....

Jazz Winner
1959 Best Performance By A Dance Band Anatomy of a Murder Pop Winner
1959 Best Musical Composition First Recorded
And Released In 1959
(More Than 5 Minutes Duration)
Anatomy of a Murder Composing Winner
1959 Best Sound Track Album – Background Score
From A Motion Picture Or Television
Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder
Anatomy of a Murder is a 1959 American courtroom crime drama film. It was directed by Otto Preminger and adapted by Wendell Mayes from the best-selling novel of the same name written by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker under the pen name Robert Traver...

Composing Winner

Grammy Hall of Fame


Recordings of Duke Ellington were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame
Grammy Hall of Fame Award
The Grammy Hall of Fame Award is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance"...

, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance."
Duke Ellington: Grammy Hall of Fame Award
Grammy Hall of Fame Award
The Grammy Hall of Fame Award is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old and that have "qualitative or historical significance"...

Year Recorded Title Genre Label Year Inducted
1932 "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
"It Don't Mean a Thing " is a 1931 composition by Duke Ellington, with lyrics by Irving Mills, now accepted as a jazz standard. The music was written and arranged by Ellington in August 1931 during intermissions at Chicago's Lincoln Tavern and was first recorded by Ellington and his orchestra for...

"
Jazz (Single) Brunswick 2008
1934 "Cocktails for Two
Cocktails for Two
"Cocktails for Two" is a song from the Big Band era, written by Arthur Johnston and Sam Coslow. The song debuted in the movie Murder at the Vanities , where it was introduced by singer and actor Carl Brisson...

"
Jazz (Single) Victor 2007
1957 Ellington at Newport
Ellington at Newport
Ellington at Newport is a 1956 jazz live album by Duke Ellington and his band, recording their historic 1956 concert at the Newport Jazz Festival, a concert which revitalized Ellington's flagging career. Jazz promoter George Wein describes the 1956 concert as "the greatest performance of...

Jazz (Album) Columbia 2004
1956 "Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue
"Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue" is a big band jazz composition written in 1937 by Duke Ellington. In its early form, the two individual pieces, "Diminuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue," were recorded on both sides of a 78 rpm record....

"
Jazz (Single) Columbia 1999
1967 Far East Suite
The Far East Suite
The Far East Suite is an album by Duke Ellington and his orchestra, recorded in New York City on 19 December to 21 December 1966. The nine compositions on the original album were all composed by Ellington and Billy Strayhorn ; a 1995 reissue added four previously unreleased...

Jazz (Album) RCA 1999
1944 Black, Brown and Beige Jazz (Single) RCA Victor 1990
1928 "Black and Tan Fantasy
Black and Tan Fantasy
Black and Tan is a musical short film written by Dudley Murphy that exhibits the ideas and thoughts of The Harlem Renaissance Movement. Duke Ellington's musical talents along with Fredi Washington's extraordinary acting potential make this movie a good example of the emergence of artistic culture...

"
Jazz (Single) Victor 1981
1941 "Take the "A" Train" Jazz (Single) Victor 1976
1931 "Mood Indigo
Mood Indigo
"Mood Indigo" is a jazz composition and song, with music by Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard with lyrics by Irving Mills.-Disputed authorship:In a 1987 interview, Mitchell Parish claimed to have written the lyrics:...

"
Jazz (Single) Brunswick 1975

Honors and inductions



Year Category Notes
2009 Commemorative U.S. quarter
50 State Quarters
The 50 State Quarters program is the release of a series of circulating commemorative coins by the United States Mint. Between 1999 and 2008, it featured each of the 50 U.S. states on unique designs for the reverse of the quarter....

D.C. and U.S. Territories Quarters Program.
2008 Gennett Records
Gennett Records
Gennett was a United States based record label which flourished in the 1920s.-Label history:Gennett records was founded in Richmond, Indiana by the Starr Piano Company, and released its first records in October 1917. The company took its name from its top managers: Harry, Fred and Clarence Gennett....

 Walk of Fame
2004 Nesuhi Ertegün Jazz Hall of Fame
at Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz at Lincoln Center
Jazz at Lincoln Center is part of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. JALC's performing arts complex, Frederick P. Rose Hall, is located at West 60th Street and Broadway in New York City, slightly south of the main Lincoln Center campus and directly adjacent to Columbus Circle. Frederick P....

1999 Pulitzer Prize
1999 Pulitzer Prize
- Journalism awards :*Public Service:**The Washington Post, for its series that identified and analyzed patterns of reckless gunplay by city police officers who had little training or supervision.*Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting:...

Special Citation
1986 22¢ commemorative U.S. stamp Issued April 29, 1986
1978 Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame
1973 French Legion of Honor July 6, 1973
1973 Honorary Degree in Music from Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

May 16, 1973
1971 Honorary Doctorate Degree from Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music
Berklee College of Music, located in Boston, Massachusetts, is the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Known primarily as a school for jazz, rock and popular music, it also offers college-level courses in a wide range of contemporary and historic styles, including hip...

1971 Songwriters Hall of Fame
Inductees of the Songwriters Hall of Fame
This a list of inductees into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Dates of induction are given alongside the names.-A:*Adams, Lee *Adair, Tom *Adamson, Harold *Adler, Richard *Ager, Milton *Ahlert, Fred *Akst, Harry...

1969 Presidential Medal of Freedom
1956 Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame inductee
Down Beat
Down Beat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond" to indicate its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois...

1968 Grammy Trustees Award
Grammy Trustees Award
The Grammy Trustees Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording". Through 1983, performers could also receive this award...

Special Merit Award
1966 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award
The Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award is awarded by the Recording Academy to "performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording."...

1959 NAACP Spingarn Medal
Spingarn Medal
The Spingarn Medal is awarded annually by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for outstanding achievement by an African American....


External links