History of Jazz Composer Duke Ellington
At the age of seven, his parents started taking him for piano lessons from Marietta Clinkscales, but his main interest was baseball back then. During this period, one of his friends came up with the nickname ‘Duke,’ due to his gracious and well-mannered behavior. He later joined Armstrong Technical High School in Washington, D. C and in the summer of 1914 when he was 14, he composed his first two songs, What You Gonna Do When the Bed Breaks Down? And Soda Fountain Rag In his autobiography, Music is my Mistress (1973); Ellington says that he skipped most of his piano lessons since he felt playing the piano wasn’t his talent (Gioia, 2011). However, his passion for the piano started growing when he started sneaking into Frank Holiday’s Poolroom the same year, and that’s when he started taking his piano lessons seriously.
S Navy and State departments, he was able to build his music business with his first group ‘The Duke’s Serenaders. ’ In addition to playing in the group, he also played the role of manager in the group by organizing gigs. Together with his band, that consisted of his childhood friend Otto Hardwick, a string bass and alto saxophone player, Sonny Greener on drums, Elmer Snowden on banjo and Arthur Whetsol on the trumpet they played throughout private society balls and embassy parties across Virginia and Washington. Unlike other bands, Ellington’s band thrived across Washington by performing for both Black American and White audiences (Gutman, 2014). In 1923, he moved to New York City where his career kept growing and he became a successful bandleader.
Ellington’s emerged as a fine orchestral pianist, and his style of playing the piano was mainly influenced by the Harlem Stylist of the 1920s. According to Gutman, 2014, Ellington is also known for his most popular hit songs such as Sophisticated Lady, Satin Doll, Solitude, Prelude to a Kiss and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got that Swing. Most of Ellington’s early recordings remained in the background, but later became popular in the 1950s as he toured across Europe as a professional piano soloist. ‘Take the A Train’ Take the A Train is said to be Ellington’s most famous jazz tune. The song was originally composed by Billy Strayhorn, an arranger, and composer in Ellington’s band.
Later that year, he also received an award from the city of New York and in 1970; he was elected as a representative to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. One of the most prestigious awards he received was the Medal of Freedom issued to him by President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) at a ceremony held at the Whitehouse (Nicholson, 1999). For the next 4 years, Ellington continued composing and performing his music until he met his untimely death in New York on May 24, 1974, after battling lung cancer for a few years. After Ellington’s death, his son Mercer took up bandleader role, but Ellington’s legacy remains unparalleled due to his strange modulations and unorthodox composition of songs built on lush melodies. Ellington is undisputedly one of the greatest legends in the history of jazz and his music has great influence on musicians to date.
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