Duke Ellington, byname of Edward Kennedy Ellington, (conceived April 29, 1899, Washington, D.C., U.S.— passed on May 24, 1974, New York, N.Y.), American musician who was the best jazz writer and bandleader of his time. One of the originators of huge band jazz, Ellington drove his band for the greater part a century, made thousands out of scores, and made a standout amongst the most unmistakable group sounds in all of Western music.
Ellington experienced childhood in a protected white collar class family in Washington, D.C. His family supported his interests in the expressive arts, and he started concentrating piano at age seven. He ended up immersed in contemplating workmanship during his secondary school years, and he was granted, however did not acknowledge, a grant to the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. Motivated by jazz entertainers, he started to perform expertly at age 17.
Ellington previously played in New York City in 1923. Soon thereafter he moved there and, in Broadway dance club, drove a sextet that developed in time into a 10-piece group. The particular blues-based tunes; the unforgiving, vocalized hints of his trumpeter, Bubber Miley (who utilized a plunger [“wa-wa”] quiet); and the sonorities of the unmistakable trombonist Joe (“Tricky Sam”) Nanton (who played quieted “snarl” sounds) all impacted Ellington’s initial “wilderness style,” as observed in such magnum opuses as “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” (1926) and “Dark and Tan Fantasy” (1927).
Broadened residencies at the Cotton Club in Harlem (1927–32, 1937–38) animated Ellington to extend his band to 14 artists and to grow his compositional degree. He chose his artists for their expressive singularity, and a few individuals from his group—including trumpeter Cootie Williams (who supplanted Miley), cornetist Rex Stewart, trombonist Lawrence Brown, baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, alto saxophonist Johnny Hodges, and clarinetist Barney Bigard—were themselves significant jazz craftsmen. (The most well known of these was Hodges, who rendered numbers with a full, velvety tone and long portamentos.) With these excellent performers, who stayed with him all through the 1930s, Ellington made several chronicles, showed up in movies and on radio, and visited Europe in 1933 and 1939.
The ability of this outfit enabled Ellington to split far from the shows of band-segment scoring. Rather, he utilized new harmonies to mix his performers’ individual sounds and underscored harmonious segments and a supple troupe that included Carney’s full bass-clef sound. He lit up unpretentious states of mind with shrewd mixes of instruments; among the most acclaimed models is “Mind-set Indigo” in his 1930 setting for quieted trumpet, unmuted trombone, and low-register clarinet. (Snap here for a video clasp of Duke Ellington and his band playing “Temperament Indigo.”) In 1931 Ellington started to make expanded works, including such pieces as Creole Rhapsody, Reminiscing in Tempo, and Diminuendo in Blue/Crescendo in Blue. He made an arrangement out of attempts to feature the uncommon abilities of his soloists. Williams, for instance, showed his adaptability in Ellington’s prominent smaller than usual concertos “Echoes of Harlem” and “Concerto for Cootie.” Some of Ellington’s numbers—remarkably “Troop” and “Perdido” by trombonist Juan Tizol—were cowritten or totally formed by sidemen. Maybe a couple of Ellington’s soloists, in spite of their significance to jazz history, played as successfully in different settings; nobody else, it appeared, could coordinate the motivation that Ellington gave his delicate, amazing settings.
A high point in Ellington’s vocation came in the mid 1940s, when he made a few masterworks—including the previously mentioned “Concerto for Cootie,” his quick beat show-stoppers “Cotton Tail” and “Ko-Ko,” and the interestingly organized, compacted scenes “Principle Stem” and “Harlem Air Shaft”— in which progressions of soloists are joined by various troupe hues. The assortment and resourcefulness of these works, all imagined for three-minute, 78-rpm records, are uncommon, just like their exceptional structures, which range from consistently streaming pieces to juxtapositions of line and state of mind. Tenor saxophonist Ben Webster and bassist Jimmy Blanton, both significant jazz specialists, were with this exemplary Ellington band. By at that point, as well, Billy Strayhorn, arranger of what might turn into the band’s signature melody, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” had turned into Ellington’s making organizing accomplice.
Not constraining himself to jazz advancement, Ellington additionally composed such extraordinary prevalent tunes as “Complex Lady,” “Shakes in My Bed,” and “Glossy silk Doll”; in different tunes, for example, “Don’t Get Around Much Any More,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Isolation,” and “I Let a Song Go out of My Heart,” he made wide interim jumps an Ellington trademark. Some of these hits were presented by Ivy Anderson, who was the band’s female vocalist during the 1930s.
During these years Ellington progressed toward becoming charmed with the conceivable outcomes of making jazz inside old style shapes. His melodic suite Black, Brown and Beige (1943), a depiction of African-American history, was the first in a progression of suites he made, as a rule comprising of pieces connected by topic. It was trailed by, among others, Liberian Suite (1947); A Drum Is a Woman (1956), made for a TV creation; Such Sweet Thunder (1957), impressions of William Shakespeare’s scenes and characters; a recomposed, reorchestrated adaptation of Nutcracker Suite (1960; after Peter Tchaikovsky); Far East Suite (1964); and Togo Brava Suite (1971). Ellington’s symphonic A Rhapsody of Negro Life was the reason for the film short Symphony in Black (1935), which additionally includes the voice of Billie Holiday (uncredited). Ellington composed movie scores for The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) and created for the artful dance and theater—including, at the stature of the Civil Rights Movement, the demonstrate My People (1964), a festival of African-American life. In his last decade he made three pieces out of hallowed music: In the Beginning God (1965), Second Sacred Concert (1968), and Third Sacred Concert (1973).
In spite of the fact that Ellington’s compositional advantages and desire changed throughout the decades, his melodic, symphonious, and cadenced qualities were generally fixed by the late 1930s, when he was a star of the swing time. The messed up, eighth-note songs and arrhythms of bebop had little effect on him, however every so often he recorded with artists who were not band individuals—not just with other swing-time lights, for example, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Coleman Hawkins yet additionally with later bop performers John Coltrane and Charles Mingus. Ellington’s expressive characteristics were shared by Strayhorn, who progressively took an interest in creating and organizing music for the Ellington band. During 1939–67 Strayhorn teamed up so intimately with Ellington that jazz researchers may never decide how much the talented agent impacted or even created works ascribed to Ellington.
The Ellington band visited Europe regularly after World War II; it additionally played in Asia (1963–64, 1970), West Africa (1966), South America (1968), and Australia (1970) and as often as possible visited North America. Notwithstanding this tiring calendar, a portion of Ellington’s performers remained with him for a considerable length of time; Carney, for instance, was a band part for a long time. Generally, later substitutions fit into jobs that had been made by their recognized ancestors; after 1950, for example, the Webster-impacted Paul Gonsalves filled the band’s performance tenor saxophone job begun by Webster. There were a few exemptions to this speculation, for example, trumpeter-musician Ray Nance and high-note trumpet authority Cat Anderson.
Not least of the band’s performers was Ellington himself, a musician whose style began in jazz and the walk piano colloquialism of James P. Johnson and Willie “The Lion” Smith. He adjusted his style for symphonic purposes, going with striking consonant hues and, particularly in later years, offering swinging performances with rakish tunes. A rich man, Ellington kept up a grand way as he drove the band and enchanted crowds with his smooth amusingness. His profession crossed the greater part a century—the majority of the recorded history of jazz. He kept on driving the band until quickly before his passing in 1974.
Ellington’s feeling of melodic show and of his players’ exceptional gifts and his wide scope of states of mind were uncommon in reality. His endowment of tune and his dominance of sonic surfaces, rhythms, and compositional structures deciphered his regularly inconspicuous, frequently complex recognitions into a group of music unmatched in jazz history. Charles Ives is maybe his opponent for the title of the best American author. Ellington’s collection of memoirs, Music Is My Mistress, was distributed in 1973.