Wednesday, December 26, 2007
ELLINGTON, DUKE Jazz composer, pianist and orchestra leader, the incomparable Duke Ellington made one of the most influential and all-pervasive contributions to American music during the twentieth century. Born Edward Kennedy Ellington in 1899, his rise to musical fame dates from the late 1920's and early 1930's. By the mid-1930's, Ellington's reputation as an orchestral genius and jazz composer had been recognized internationally. Leader of one of the earliest and best of the so-called "big bands" during the 1930's and 1940's, Ellington himself wrote over a thousand musical compositions. Among his most noted pieces were "Mood Indigo" (a perpetual favorite and audience pleaser), "Sophisticated Lady," "Solitude," and "Don't Get Around Much Any More." His rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Take the A Train," along with "Mood Indigo," became thematic trademarks of the "Ellington sound." Toward the end of Duke's career, the "Ellington sound" (much to the displeasure of some and much to the pleasure of others) had been transformed somewhat by the fusing of traditional jazz with African and Asian music. Performing before eager audiences until the end, Duke Ellington died of cancer in early 1974.