Duke Ellington

Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington ( born April 29, 1899 in Washington, DC, † May 24, 1974 in New York) was an influential American jazz musician. As a pianist he was one of the most important innovators of stride piano. As a composer he has written approximately 2000 compositions ( songs and suites), of which a hundred were soon to jazz standards. As a bandleader, he contributed to the severity of the swing as a big-band style with.


Duke Ellington came from the black petty bourgeoisie Washington. He was the son of the head waiter James Edward Ellington, who worked once as a butler in the White House. Later he operated a catering service and tried to educate his children, as they would grow up in a wealthy, middle-class household. First piano lessons received little Ellington already the age of seven by his mother, Daisy Kennedy Ellington. However, he did not enjoy playing the piano, so that Daisy teaching ceased soon again unsuccessful. Only at the age of fourteen he became interested in music after he had heard the pianist Harvey Brooks. Ellington, however, had little formal music lessons, but took on what was available in his surroundings, especially ragtime. In addition to some local musicians James P. Johnson his first model, the Carolina Shout was as it set the course.

Due to its stylish appearance and polished manners, he was appointed in his youth by school mates to "Duke" ( English for " Duke "). He started his professional career as a musician at age 17. In his first public performances, he plays for a dance. About 1920 he enjoyed a good reputation within the manageable music scene of Washington. He worked not only as a companion on the piano, but also as a bandleader who made ​​sure with skill that his company was working. When he moved at age 24 with a group of musicians from Washington to New York, where he founded the band The Washingtonians. The first attempt went wrong. Then, the band released the singer Ada Smith at: Ellington and his Washingtonians played in various clubs in New York and toured until 1927 as a dance music band through New England. When the famous King Oliver left the famous Cotton Club, Ellington was offered as a house band in the then most prestigious night club in New York the job. Gradually, the " Washingtonians " were the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In the Harlem clubs, mainly through the regular radio broadcasts from the Cotton Club, reached Duke Ellington and his band Jungle national prominence. Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Arlen: In the club the most talented songwriters in the industry worked. The radio broadcast live from the club, the press reported on the event.

During this time, Ellington had the ability to play music in a variety of style options for dance theater and other special areas of the band to compose. He experimented many times in the tonality, with screaming trumpets and wah-wah or growling saxophones. The Jungle Style was his former trademark. As the Ellington Cotton Club 1931 left, he was one of the most famous African- Americans. He regularly produced for record companies and movie studios. An accomplished businessman Ellington cooperated with the publisher Irving Mills, these insisted that Duke recorded only his own compositions. He sent the orchestra finally in the summer of 1933 on his first European tour.

Then he undertook with his band numerous other tours through the United States and Europe, and a world tour in the 1960s. He worked all his life as a musical experimenter, and not only took with his orchestra, but also with more the avant-garde of modern jazz scoring musicians like John Coltrane and Charles Mingus albums. The band peaked in the 1940s, a creative peak when he arranged specifically for the diverse voices of his orchestra and composed. This development was influenced to a considerable extent by the pianist, arranger and composer Billy Strayhorn, Ellington the late 1930s and met up in his orchestra. Ellington and Strayhorn established a lifelong close friendship. The most frequently with the Ellington orchestra placed in connector Take The A-Train also comes not - as is often wrongly assumed - by Duke, but by Billy Strayhorn.

Even as a musician left him and went back the popularity of swing, Ellington took new forms, connecting factors and sidemen. In his later works, he often composed in longer forms, which he modeled on classical music, like his Black, Brown and Beige (1943 ), Such Sweet Thunder ( 1957), based on William Shakespeare, as well as the big-band version of Peer Gynt show suite ( 1960). The connection of the originally separate compositions diminuendo in Blue and Crescendo in Blue from 1937 to diminuendo and crescendo in blue by about 27 choruses extending tenor sax solo by Paul Gonsalves during the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 provided by publication of the live recording Ellington at Newport the awaited comeback.

At Ellington's longer, symphonic works but is occasionally criticized that he would have lost to them the essence of jazz in favor of an " artificial Classic " out of sight.

Duke Ellington was known for his distinctive vanity and his domineering and manipulative dealing with his band and family members. So he did not allow his sister about to go out of the house unaccompanied. His son Mercer said of him: "He ruled with an iron hand in a kid glove ".

1965 Ellington was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but he did not received. His comment:

On April 24, 1969, he received from the hand of U.S. President Richard Nixon for his life's work, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1973, he was inducted into the French Legion of Honour.

Duke Ellington died on May 24, 1974 of pneumonia and was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

The Pianist

Gunther Schuller repeatedly pointed out that is paid in the literature on Ellington 's piano playing too little attention. The Duke was certainly no virtuoso such as Earl Hines and is rated by many authors more as an ensemble pianist. Ellington but controlled his orchestra from the piano, and not with conducting gestures, but sustained his game itself also in the countless samples played the piano an important role. Handle Ellington but often on his instrument phrases of his teammates on from which he formulated many a topic. Spontaneous harmonization emerged quite in this way, because arranging took place not at the desk. He has repeatedly played until they were sitting by heart rate cast. So the piano was the direct mediator between inner ear Ellington and his orchestra, with the result that was unnecessary as making a score on several tracks, at least from the dance music repertoire.

" As a soloist, he deserves a special place in the history of jazz ," writes biographer Ulrich Kurth, " he had a remarkably varied attack. Hardly any other pianist was able to create such different timbres at the piano, to use such a superior dynamics, rhythm, and an idiosyncratic harmony, and did. , Without recourse to brilliant technique An early example of this is Black Beauty 1928, a duet with bassist Wellman Braud. (...) With a few strokes he could fix the emotional gestures of a piece. "

The pianist Duke Ellington presents particular his trio session out with Charles Mingus and Max Roach (1962 ), as has been released on the album Money Jungle.


Duke Ellington was a prominent size of the jazz of the 1920s to the 1960s, with a still not high enough to assess, influence. One calls him one of the greatest American composers. Among his many achievements: Satin Doll, Rockin ' in Rhythm, Mood Indigo, Caravan or Sophisticated Lady. In the 1920s and 1930s, they frequently arose in collaboration with Irving Mills, from the late 1930s with Billy Strayhorn.

Many of his works Ellington wrote for individual musicians of his orchestra. He sat their individual talents specifically for a the sound of his music. These included Johnny Hodges, Bubber Miley, Cootie Williams, Joe " Tricky Sam" Nanton, Barney Bigard, Ben Webster, Harry Carney, Sonny Greer, Otto Hardwick and Wellman Braud. Among the best known of these musics is recorded Concerto for Cootie 1940. Some musicians like Jimmy Blanton and Ben Webster gave the Jazz even during the short time that they played with Ellington, far-reaching impulses, many musicians like Johnny Hodges, Barney Bigard and Otto Hardwick belonged decades to his ensemble and experienced in that time, their artistic highlights.

Ellington also wrote film scores of Black and Tan Fantasy (1929 ), about Anatomy of a Murder (1959 ) with James Stewart to Paris Blues ( 1961) with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz musicians.


In 1997, the sculptor Robert Graham sat him a monument in New York's Central Park at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and 110th Street. In his hometown of Washington exist in his memory the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which instructs gifted students for a career in the field of fine arts, and the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington DC

Duke Ellington was a member of the Federation of the Freemasons, his Social Lodge No. since 1932. 1 in Washington, D.C. is constituted under the Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

His written heritage is located in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC, his tapes he bequeathed a Danish radio station.


There are more than 2000 compositions Ellington detectable. A small selection:

  • East St. Louis Toodle -Oo 1927
  • Black and Tan Fantasy 1927
  • Black Beauty 1928
  • Creole Love Call 1928
  • Jubilee Stomp 1928
  • The Mooche 1929
  • Dreamy Blues / Mood Indigo 1931
  • Rockin ' in Rhythm 1931
  • Creole Rhapsody 1931
  • Sophisticated Lady 1932
  • It Do not Mean a Thing ( If It Is not Got That Swing) 1932
  • Sophisticated Lady 1933
  • (In My ) Solitude 1934
  • Daybreak Express 1934
  • Delta Serenade 1935
  • In a Sentimental Mood 1935
  • Reminiscing in Tempo 1935
  • Clarinet Lament 1936
  • Caravan 1937
  • Azure 1937
  • Diga Diga Doo 1937
  • Blue Reverie 1937
  • Pyramid 1938
  • Prelude to a Kiss 1938
  • Battle of Swing 1939
  • Blue Light 1939
  • Subtle Lament 1939
  • Ko-Ko 1940
  • What Sergeant Shy 1939
  • Concerto for Cootie (later Do Nothing Till You Hear from Me) 1940
  • Cotton Tail 1940
  • All Too Soon 1940
  • Warm Valley 1940
  • Across the Track Blues 1940
  • Take the " A" Train 1941 (composition by Billy Strayhorn )
  • I Got It Bad ( and That Is not Good ) 1941
  • Just Squeeze Me ( But Do not Tease Me) 1941
  • C Jam Blues 1942
  • Do not Get Around Much Anymore 1942 ( T: Bob Russell)
  • Moonmist 1942
  • Diminuendo 1943
  • Crescendo in Blue 1943
  • Do Nothin 'Til You Hear from Me 1943 (T: Bob Russell)
  • I'm Beginning to See the Light 1944
  • Perfume Suite 1944
  • Harlem 1950
  • Lonesome Valley 1956
  • A Drum Is a Women 1956
  • Monologue 1957
  • Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald 1957
  • Satin Doll 1958
  • Midnight Indigo 1959
  • Such Sweet Thunder 1959
  • Sunswept Sunday 1959

Larger plants and concert pieces

  • Black, Brown and Beige 1945
  • Newport Jazz Festival Suite 1956
  • A Drum Is a Woman 1956
  • Royal Ancestry ( Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald ) 1957
  • Shakespearean Suite 1957
  • Toot Suite 1958
  • Jump for Joy 1959
  • Anatomy of a Murder 1959
  • The Ellington Suites (including Queens Suite ) 1959
  • Nutcracker Suite 1960
  • Paris Blues 1961
  • Far East Suite 1964
  • The Second Sacred Concert 1967
  • And His Mother Called Him ... Bill 1967
  • Francis A. Sinatra & Edward K. Ellington (1968, with Frank Sinatra )
  • New Orleans Suite 1971

Development of the Ellington band

For the band's history see Duke Ellington Orchestra.

Disco Graphical Notes

  • The Private Collection Volume 1 - Studio Sessions, Chicago 1956 ( 1956)
  • Such Sweet Thunder ( 1957)
  • The Cosmic Scene: Duke Ellington 's Spacemen (1958 )
  • Blues in Orbit (1959 )
  • Side by Side (1959 ) with Johnny Hodges
  • Money Jungle (1962 ) with Charles Mingus and Max Roach
  • The Great Paris Concert ( 1963)
  • Far East Suite (1966 )
  • And His Mother Called Him ... Bill (1967 )


  • The Complete 1936-1940 Variety, Vocalion and Okeh Small Group Sessions - ( Mosaic - 2006) - 7 CDs with Rex Stewart, Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, Wellman Braud, Billy Taylor, Lawrence Brown, Ceele Burke g, Sonny Greer, Cootie Williams, Juan Tizol, Barney Bigard, Tricky Sam Nanton, Hayes Alvis, Sandy Williams, Tommy Fulford p, Bernard Addison, Chick Webb, Ivie Anderson, Wayman Carver arr, Fred Guy, Otto Hardwick, Buddy Clark, Charlie Barnet maracas, Sue Mitchell voc, Brick Fleagle g, Jack Maisel dm, Jerry Kruger voc, voc Mary McHugh, Leon LaFell voc, voc Scat Powell, Wallace Jones, Jean Eldridge voc, Billy Strayhorn, Louis Bacon, The Quintones voc, Jimmy Blanton