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 ran a catering service and tried to raise his children as if they grow up in a wealthy, middle-class household. First piano lessons received the small Ellington already the age of seven by his mother, Daisy Kennedy Ellington. However, he did not enjoy playing the piano, so Daisy teaching hired soon again unsuccessful.
Only at the age of fourteen he became interested in music, after the pianist Harvey Brooks belongs. Ellington but had little formal music lessons, but took on what was available in its surroundings, especially Ragtime. In addition to some regional 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 schoolmates for "Duke" (English for "Duke"). He began his professional career as a musician with 17 years.
In his first public appearances he plays to dance. Approximately 1920 he enjoyed a good reputation within the scene is visible at Music Washington. He was not only as a companion at the piano act, but also as a leader who cared with skill that his company was working. When he moved to 24 years 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 at various New York Clubs and toured until 1927 as a dance music band through New England. When the famous King Oliver known Cotton Club left, Ellington was offered as a house band in the then most prestigious nightclub in New York job.
Gradually, the "Washingtonians" were the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In the Harlem clubs, especially through regular radio broadcasts from the Cotton Club, reached Duke Ellington and his band Jungle national prominence. In the club the most talented songwriters in the industry, Dorothy Fields, Jimmy McHugh and Harold Arlen worked. The radio broadcast live from the club, the press reported about the event. During this time, Ellington had to compose the ability to play music in a variety of style variations fOr dance theater and other specialties of the band. He experimented widely in tonality, with screaming trumpets and wah-wah, or growling saxophones. The Jungle Style was his former trademark. As Ellington the Cotton club in 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, this insisted that Duke recorded only their own compositions. He sent the orchestra finally in the summer of 1933 on his first European tour. Then he made with his band many other tours throughout the United States and Europe, and a world tour in the 1960s. He worked his whole life as a musical experimenter and took not only with his orchestra, but also with more to artistic avant-garde of modern jazz counting musicians like John Coltrane and Charles Mingus albums. The band reached in the 1940s, a creative peak when he fOr the different voices of his orchestra arranged and composed specifically. This development was influenced to a considerable extent by the pianist, arranger, and composer Billy Strayhorn, Ellington the end of the thirties and met up in his orchestra.
Ellington and Strayhorn a lifelong, close friendship. That with the Ellington Orchestra brought in connection most common piece Take The A-Train also does not come - as often incorrectly assumed - of Duke, but by Billy Strayhorn. Even as a musician forsook him and the popularity of swing decreased, Ellington took new forms, connecting factors and Sidemen. In his later works he composed often must in longer forms, where he was based on classical music, as his Black, Brown and Beige (1943), Such Sweet Thunder (1957), based on William Shakespeare, and the big-band version of Peer Gynt suite (1960) show. The compound of the originally separate compositions diminuendo in blue and Crescendo in Blue from 1937 to diminuendo and crescendo while by itself About 27 choruses extending tenor sax solo by Paul Gonsalves in Blue of the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956 provided by publication of a live recording that awaited comeback.
At Ellington longer, symphonic works but is sometimes criticized that he had lost in 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 about him: "He ruled with an iron hand in a glace glove".
1965 Ellington was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, he but not received. "Fate is kind to me. It does not want that I become famous too young. "On April 24, 1969, he received from the hand of US President Richard Nixon for his lifework the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1973 he was inducted into the French Legion of Honor.
Duke Ellington died on May 24, 1974 of pneumonia and was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
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