Duke Ellington was not only the most famous composer in the history of jazz but also the leader of a group that had kept his brilliant group for almost 50 years. Two aspects of his career were linked; Ellington used his group as a music laboratory for his new compositions and designed his writing specifically to showcase the talent of his members, many of whom stayed with him for a long time. Ellington had also written film scores and musicals. He also had many of his instrumental works adapted to songs that have become the norm. In addition to a touring year after year, he recorded numerous recordings, which led to gigantic work still judged a quarter of a century after his death in 1974
Born April 29, 1899, Ellington was raised by two talented and musical parents in a bourgeois district of Washington, DC. At the age of seven, he began studying the piano. He earned the nickname “Duke” for his courteous manners. Inspired by his soda work, he wrote his first play, Soda Fountain Rag, at the age of 15. Despite a scholarship in art at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, Ellington pursued a passion for ragtime and started playing professionally at the age of 17.
Duke Ellington Band
In the 1920s, Ellington played in Broadway nightclubs as the leader of the Sextet Squad, a group that eventually became a set of 10 compositions. Ellington was looking for musicians with unique performance styles, like Bubber Miley, who used a clip to make “wa-wa” sound and Joe Nanton, who gave his world a “trombone” music. On several occasions, the group included trumpeter Cootie Williams, cornetist Rex Stewart and alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges. Ellington made hundreds of recordings with his bands, appeared in films and on the radio, and made two European appearances in the 1930s.
Ellington’s fame rose on the rafts of the 1940s when he composed several masterpieces, including “Concerto for Cootie,” “Cotton Tail,” and “Ko-Ko.” Some of her most popular songs include “It Makes No Meaning If You Don’t Have That Momentum,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Soledad” and “Satin Doll.” Many of his successes have been sung by the impressive Ivie Anderson, Ellington’s favorite female vocal group.
“Take the A Train”
Perhaps Ellington’s most famous jazz song was “Take the A Train,” composed by Billy Strayhorn and recorded for commercial purposes on February 15, 1941. “Take the A Train,” “A,” referring to the New York subway line. Replaced Ellington’s previous track, “Sepia Panorama.”
The sense of Ellington’s musical drama made him stand out. Its combination of melodies, rhythms, and subtle sound movements gave the audience a new experience: complex but accessible jazz that makes their heartbeat. Ellington’s autobiography, Music Is My Mistress, was published in 1973. Ellington won 12 Grammy Awards from 1959 to 2000, nine in his lifetime.
Although Ellington’s composing interests and ambitions have changed over the decades, his melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic characteristics were mainly defined in the late 1930s, when he was a star in the swing era. The intermittent melodies and rhythms of the bebop’s quaver influenced him a bit. However, he sometimes recorded with non-group musicians, not only with other swing period lamps like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Coleman Hawkins but with the more recent bop musicians John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Ellington’s stylistic qualities were shared by Strayhorn, who increasingly participated in the composition and orchestration of music for the group Ellington. During 1939-1967, Strayhorn worked so closely with Ellington that jazz specialists can never determine how much an MP influenced or even composed works attributed to Ellington.
Ellington made frequent visits to Europe after the Second World War; He has also performed in Asia (1963-64, 1970), West Africa (1966), South America (1968), and Australia (1970), and has often toured in North America. Despite this busy schedule, some Ellington musicians stayed with him for decades; Carney, for example, has been a member of the group for years. Other replacements generally register in the roles created by their distinguished predecessors; After 1950, for example, Webster influenced Paul Gonsalves as a solo tenor saxophone group originally from Webster. There were exceptions to this generalization, such as trumpeter violinist Ray Nance and high trumpet expert Cat Anderson.
Ellington himself was no less essential to the musicians of the group, a pianist whose style was born in the age of rugby and the piano language of James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. He adapted his style for orchestral purposes, accompanying it with vibrant harmonic colors and, especially in the following years, offering oscillating solos with angular melodies. An elegant man, Ellington maintained a royal position while leading the group and captivating the audience with his sweet humor. His career spanned more than half a century, most of the documented history of jazz.
On May 24, 1974, at the age of 75, Ellington died of lung cancer and pneumonia. His last words were: “Music is my way of life, why I live and how I will remember.” Over 12,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, New York.