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How Duke Ellington Changed the World

A brief look at how the most influential jazz composer and performer influenced America's most original artwork.

Adam Roebuck

on 12 December 2012

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Transcript of How Duke Ellington Changed the World

THE DUKE A New Sound in American 20th Century Art Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington was the most prolific, inspiring, well-rounded artist of the twentieth century. Over two thousand songs were created by the work of his mind and his hand, he hired hundreds of musicians, and he is accountable for over 200 albums, all titled under his name. Duke Ellington was born April 29th, 1899 in Washington D.C. At age 7, he started playing the piano, and by the time he turned 18, he formed his own band titled "The Duke's Serenaders." This was the start to his prolonged life and dedication to American Jazz Music. Taking the role of bandleader, song writer, and pianist is a very daunting task for one individual. His skills in all three areas are unmatched because of his versatility and the level of musicianship he pertained not only through recording, but touring worldwide as well. At the corner of 142nd Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem, New York, The Duke Ellington Orchestra took off in 1927. Owned by a gangster and operated by people of African descent, the Cotton Club was the ideal place for a band composed of all people of African descent to gain huge success. In 1910, 10% of Harlem was of African descent In 1930, 70% of Harlem was of African descent Harlem, New York was a very popular place for migrants, mainly work-seeking individuals from the south. Individuals of African descent sought a better standard of living and relief from the institutionalized racism in the South. The educated class of the North wanted Harlem to be the center for culture. The Rise of Culture in Harlem

The phase known as "The Harlem Renaissance" will forever be the most influential cultural upbringing for individuals of African descent. The early part of the 20th century was a migration period from rural to urban life for people seeking new employment, education, and family. The creative arts were hugely prevalent in Harlem from 1910-1930, the perfect time for Duke Ellington to start getting his name out. At the Cotton Club, Duke Ellington was put under a massive spotlight because of national publications at the expense of the club. Dancing was another creative art form that was added to Duke's entertainment scene in Harlem. Other art forms that were associated with the Harlem Renaissance included visual, drama, fictional writing, and poetry. Duke's first tour in Europe was in 1933. During this time, they performed for 6 weeks in Britain before flying to Holland and France. Large audiences filled the concert halls, while critics provided extensive coverage in newspapers, magazines, and radio advertisements, the most popular being the BBC broadcast. Duke's biggest performance was at the London Palladium. His show ran for 2 weeks straight and seated 2,286 every night. The Duke Ellington Orchestra toured Europe until 1939 before taking a break from international tours until 1950, where they returned to Western Europe, specifically London and France. They returned in 1958 and '59 as well.  Aside from Europe, they also toured the Middle East and India in 1963, Japan in 1964, Latin America and Mexico in 1968, and the Soviet Union in 1971 The entire nation was able to hear Duke's music at the Cotton Club due to broadcasting by NBC. Duke's success would not have been possible if it weren't for the world-class performers he hired. Some of the greats include Johnny Hodges (sax), Cootie Williams (trumpet), Sonny Greer (drums), and Clark Terry (trumpet). He also collaborated and performed frequently with John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Max Roach. Duke collaborated with many composers during the 1940s through the 70s. Billy Strayhorn was a young composer that Duke found very unique, so he was hired to write music for the traveling orchestra. Although Duke took all of the bows for the stage performances, Strayhorn was behind much of the music, the most well-known being "Take the "A" Train." Ellington's (and Strayhorn's) music is considered by many to be a "New-World Symphony." They changed the way 20th Century American-Pop music was heard and perceived and Duke showed it to the world. His name will always be remembered for energizing the night life of Harlem, New York, and his music helped break the color barrier that had existed all around the world for hundreds of years prior to his fame. Bibliography An Carr. "The Duke Ellington Society - Duke Ellington - Biography." The Duke Ellington Society - Duke Ellington - Biography. The Duke Ellington Society, n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

"Category:Duke Ellington Orchestra Members." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 10 Apr. 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

"Duke Ellington." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Sept. 2012. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.

Tucker, Mark. "Ellington Biography." Ellington Biography. Rude Interlude, 1993. Web. 11 Dec. 2012.
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