The Duke of Jazz

By | Apr 29, 2009

Edward Kennedy Ellington, more commonly known as Duke Ellington, was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington DC. As a youngster he was called Duke by a friend because of a regal air he displayed.

Ellington began playing piano when he was eleven with a heavy influence from Ragtime. By 17 he was a professional performer and moved to New York playing at the famous Cotton Club at 24 with his own band.

Many of his compositions were written in ways to highlight the talents of members of his orchestra. The music is classified as Jazz, although to him is was American Music.

One aspect of his compositions was that he didn’t limit the length of the number to the time that could be recorded on a 78 rpm record, or three minutes. As early as 1935 he and his Orchestra would recorded ‘Reminiscing in Tempo’ a tribute to his mother who died in 1934, which filled four 10″ record sides.

Duke Ellington and his Orchestra would perform under is death on May 24, 1974, they began in 1923. The Duke Ellington Orchestra continued under the leadership for his son Mercer until 1996 and still is performing under the leadership of his Grandson Paul.

Stevie Wonder honored the Duke with his 1976 song ‘Sir Duke’ and Ellington sitting at his piano appears on the 2009 issued District of Columbia quarter.


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