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Duke of Jazz

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Submitted By taetae8520
Words 768
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Shantae Todd
Intro to Jazz History
Mrs. Lester
29 January 2014
“Duke of Jazz”
Duke Ellington was an American jazz composer, orchestrator, bandleader, and pianist, who were considered to be the greatest composer in the history of jazz music and one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century. He composed over 2000 works and performed numerous concerts during his musical career. A compilation of some of his most popular music is collected on a CD called "The Popular Duke Ellington." He was born Edward Kennedy Ellington on April 28, 1899 in Washington, D.C. to Daisy and James Ellington. They served as the ideal role models for young Ellington and taught him everything from table manners to the power of music. He was eight when he got his first piano lessons. By the age of fourteen, he was sneaking into Frank Holliday’s poolroom. He learned from his experiences in the poolroom how to appreciate the value of mixing with a wide range of people. He attended the Armstrong Manual Training School to study commercial art instead of an academically-oriented school. During the summer months, he would seek out and listen to ragtime pianists in Washington. He said he decided to become a musician when he realized that when playing the piano, there was always a pretty girl standing down at the bass clef end of the piano, thus the music career of Duke Ellington was born.
He was called “Duke” because he was something of a dandy, with a love of fancy clothes and an elegant style. He retained those traits throughout his life. The secret of the Ellington style was that it was no mere style at all but simply the manifestation of what he was made of within.
Between 1899 and 1974, Duke moved from his home town to New York where he formed his own band and began to arrange music and write jazz in a distinctive style which included serious concert music, tone poems, ballet suites and short concerto-like pieces. Another well-known piece of Dukes was Ko-ko, a bluesy mood with model effects and complex harmonies that put it in the realm of concert music.
Duke personally created most of the music played by his orchestra. He often wrote pieces for specific players with distinctive musical styles in his band, such as "Concerto for Cootie" (1940) for fellow musician and trumpeter, Cootie Williams. With the help from American trumpeter James "Bubber" Miley, Ellington often incorporated in his music the jungle effect. This effect was made by placing a plunger at the opening of a brass instrument, therefore, muffling or muting the notes played out. The result sounded like a person wailing, giving the piece a voice-like quality. In "Concerto for Cootie," Cootie Williams does a solo using the jungle effect, making it sound like a voice is singing along. His opening solo is repetitive, going over the same set of notes over and over again. The overall feeling is as if the music is wooing the listener.

Duke's other innovations include the use of the human voice as an instrument, such as in "Creole Love Call" (1927). He also placed instruments in unusual combinations, illustrated in the piece "Mood Indigo" (1930). When the orchestra performs this piece, three soloists stand out in front of the stage, playing three different instruments. Improvisation was a big part of Duke's music.

One of Dukes orchestra's signature tunes is "Take the ‘A' Train" (1941). This piece was not written by Ellington but by American composer Billy Strayhorn, who became Ellington's musical collaborator.
Music was his mistress as the Duke would always say, she played second fiddle to no one and she stood by him to the end. Whatever his shortcomings, the Duke created a body of music that endures forever. His place in the sweep of American music is unique and equal that of any of the acknowledged European masters.
Ellington died from lung cancer and pneumonia on May 24, 1974, a month after his 75th birthday. His last words were, "Music is how I live, why I live and how I will be remembered."[63] At his funeral, attended by over 12,000 people at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Ella Fitzgerald summed up the occasion, "It's a very sad day. A genius has passed."[64] He was interred in the Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York City. [65]

Work Citied
Duke Ellington. Retrieved 10, 1999, from
Ellington, Duke. Music Is My Mistress. New York: Da Capo, 1976

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