Unformatted text preview: Duke Ellington Composer, bandleader, pianist
Edward Kennedy Ellington Birth place: Washington D.C. 18991974 Famous tagline: "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing" The Rise of Duke Ellington (1920's early 30's) Ellington's early life in Washington, D.C. Moves to NY with his band in '24 Develops his craft in speakeasies: jim crow clubs, black and tans New interest in black entertainment from gangsters, monied whites
Watch Burns: Disc 3, ch 4450 Many consider Duke Ellington to be the most important of all American composers. Why? The most prolific composer of the twentieth century (over 2000 works) He succeeded in turning the "swing band" a purely American invention from a pop ensemble that played dance music into a medium of serious artistic expression His music reached into all corners of American, especially AfricanAmerican, musical culture. His intent was to create music that reflected the people, places and things in his society more than pop music. Many consider him to be the most important of all American composers. Why? Was the most highlyregarded composer of jazz among the musicians of his time. Late in life, he became even more respected as an accomplished composer of art music. Wrote a substantial number of pieces to perform in the concert hall, for film music, and for sacred concerts he held in various cathedrals in New York. Ellington as an Artist Continually evolving, daily dedication to his craft, always taking risks, and energized by the talent surrounding him, Ellington epitomizes the artistic spirit of jazz. Ellington as an Artist Ellington remained seriously devoted to his art throughout his life. Everything except his family was secondary to his dedication to music. "Music is My Mistress" his autobiography A Rarity: Popular Success and Exceptionally Creative/Innovative Musician He had a gift for writing popular songs, and was immensely popular at various times throughout his long career. (His band existed from 19181974 longest in jazz history) What to Listen for in Ellington's Music
Interesting and adventurous use of color* Higher degree of sophistication and complexity of arrangements e.g. cross voicing *Discovered, often from his players, new ways to make expressive sound: wordless vocals, wailing reeds, growling brass Ellington's artistic relationship with his musicians In addition to being a good businessman, Ellington was respected by his musicians for encouraging an atmosphere of creative collaboration between himself and the musicians. Ellington's band always had excellent players. Ellington treated them well. Many of Ellington's compositional ideas were inspired by the jazz playing of his musicians. In return, his band was inspired to perform his music. He encouraged a spirit of collaboration over competition. Ellington's Formative Years Ellington studied piano from age seven and was influenced by stride piano masters such as James P. Johnson, Willie "the Lion" Smith, and Fats Waller. Early Success Achieved significant success in D.C. as bandleader and music agent while still in his late teens, early 20's. The business and leadership skills he learned as a young bandleader served him well throughout his career. Ellington was always highly respected as an employer by his musicians. Duke was honest, paid well, and always seemed able to prevent ego or envy within the ranks of his band. Not always the case in the music business. (not to be confused w/ the art of music) 1923 : Ellington moves to New York, risking the security of DC 19231925: The Washingtonians, who later become The at the Hollywood Club in Manhattan 192325 Move from DC to NY Duke Ellington Kentucky Club Orchestra The House Band, Picture: 1923 The Washingtonians at the Hollywood Club The Washingtonians Bubber Miley was the trumpet player for Ellington's Washingtonians in the 1920's. He created a growling tone on his horn that Ellington called his "Jungle Sound" a manner of "growling" and playing plunger, mute Example on 1924 recording of St Louis Toodleoo Ellington worked the idea into many of his later arrangements The Cotton Club (Burns film on Cotton Club) Jim Crow Club speakeasy Very popular with Manhattan social elite, gangsters Old Man Blues film from those years Cotton Tail "Jump" Swing Ellington's music reflects a particular time and society twentiethcentury America and the social issues of the day. Just as Ellington the artist painted with musical colors, so his pieces often carried titles using color both artistically and racially: Black and Tan Fantasy, Black, Brown, and Beige, Black Beauty. Created in the climate of the Harlem Renaissance, these pieces were played to white crowds at the Cotton Club. The compositions reflected sounds of the cars, trains, streets, and bustling city life. Harlem Airshaft conveys the life clustered around the backs of Harlem tenement buildings, an area that Ellington referred to as "one big loudspeaker." http://www.dellington.org/lessons/harshaft.ram Ellington and the Harlem Renaissance Ellington Masters His Craft Ellington, writing prolifically in the 30's and 40's, creates his best swing jazz pieces for swing band In a Mellowtone ('42) listen for... two great soloists Cootie Williams (trumpet) and Johnny Hodges (alto sax) call and response figures in the main theme way Ellington masterfully arranges the inst's how well the saxophone section (soli) complements the trumpet solo The Suites, Sacred Concerts, and World Music Examples... Black, Brown and Beige his 1st multi movement work The AfroEurasian Eclipse (ex. "Gong") Three Black Kings (ex. Movement 1, "The Magi") On music, as both a business and an art form... "Jazz is art. Swing is business." Ellington's Final Years Continues to tour the world and perform with his band until the end Received the Medal of Freedom from President Nixon in 1969, and several honorary doctorates To "Great Soloists of the Swing Era" ...
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- Spring '08
- Duke Ellington, ellington