-Page 1- Duke Ellington, also known as Edward Kennedy Ellington, was born on April 29, 1899 in Washington D.C., where he spent nearly one-third of his life. Daisy Kennedy Ellington, Duke's mother, was a soft-spoken woman who was born in 1879 in Washington D.C. as well. She had grown up in a middle-class family and had also completed her high school career, an accomplishment that was outstanding at that time in history. In all respects, Daisy had grown up in a reputable and well-established family, and passed on much of her own upbringing to her son, Edward. As a child, Daisy always made sure that Edward was always confident about hisself and also about his abilities by her constant encouragement. For Daisy, Edward was the light of her life and never had to want for anything. As stated by John Edward Hasse in his biography on Duke Ellington, "Daisy undoubtedly hoped that her son would be able to rise above the troubles and make a better life for himself" (22). Ellington, in return, also devoutly loved his mother and spent his life in search of her happiness and approval. His father, James Edward Ellington, was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1879. Along with many other southern blacks, James had migrated north in search of more opportunities and better living conditions, and had settled in Washington D.C. Unlike the woman who was to become his wife, he had not completed high school, but instead had stopped short of completing the eighth grade. Throughout the late 1890s and up until around 1920, James held a number of odd jobs, including a driver, a butler and even a caterer. James made sure that his family always lived as if they were millionaires, complete with "cut glass and silver, with lace curtains in the living room. This was a refined, cultivated household..." (Hasse 23). Between 1898 and 1921, James and the family moved to several different locations, all of which were in Northwest Washington, which was the area in which the upstanding citizens of the District of Columbia all lived. From both of his parents, Edward learned many of the traits of a "cultured" person, including how to choose the proper utensils at a dinner table. He greatly admired his father and picked up much of his characteristics, especially his reputation for having a "way with the ladies," which would manifest itself in his later years. Hasse stated in his biography, "young Ellington was a natural aristocrat--in bearing, manners, taste, dress, and self-confidence. Cultivating airs and graces, and foreshadowing his future relationships with women, he even had his female cousins bow down to him as a sign of respect" (24). Both of Edward's parents played the piano: his father played operatic arias by ear and his mother played parlor songs and rags by note. It was in Edward's early childhood that he learned the true power of music, to cause strong feelings and to uplift the spirit. It was also here that Edward begun to truly appreciate music as well as begin to develop an affinity for the art.
-Page 2- As a young man, Ellington displayed talent in several different arts, and had to choose which path he would follow as an adult. Ellington learned developed liking for the ragtime music which was so popular during his teenage years. He taught himself to play the piano by listening, watching and imitating others. According to Ellington, " on the piano you could develop your own musical, physical, and visual style" (Hasse). The first piece he ever composed was entitled "Soda Fountain Rag" (also known as Poodle Dog Rag), which he wrote while working as a soda jerk in the Poodle Dog Cafe. This attracted him some attention, though he never wrote it down. The next piece he composed he called "What You gonna Do When the Bed Breaks Down?" This song had particular appeal for Ellington's teenage audiences, who enjoyed the bawdy nature of the song. It was in 1913 Edgar McEntree, a friend, "looked at Ellington's polite manners, fashionable clothes, and aristocratic bearing and nicknamed him 'Duke'" (38). It was this very same friend that encouraged Ellington to play a song for the seniors' dance, which was a great success. From this point on, he was in heavy demand as a pianist at various social functions. Since he needed new pieces for his performances, Duke began recycling and changing the few pieces he did know, so that his audience often thought he had a real repertoire. This typified one of his most fundamental principles of compositions which was reusing older material in new contexts. One of his greatest influences during this very formative period in his life in addition to Louis Brown, was Oliver "Doc" Perry, who was a popular Washington bandleader. Perry took the time to teach Duke how to read music and became a "piano parent" to the budding musician. After a while in his apprenticeship, Perry began asking Duke to play in his place at various events, and soon after he began to play in different clubs and cafes in black Washington. In February 1917 Ellington dropped out of high school three months short of graduation in order to pursue his career as a professional musician. In his early days, he would work during the day painting signs and posters, even opening a sign-painting business, and by night he would perform music. His first musical positions were in the ensembles of Washington bandleaders Louis Thomas, Russell Wooding, and others. Duke's next step in becoming a "real" professional musician was beginning his own group in late 1917 or early 1918 known as The Duke's serenaders. Initially this group was comprised of two to four players, with Ellington on the piano, drums, banjo or guitar, and a saxophonist. From then on, Ellington's popularity continued to increase, and he began taking further steps, which included becoming his own booking manager, in order to avoid unneccessary fees. By 1919 Duke had accomplished enough to buy his own car and house, which was an important step for him since marrying Edna Thompson on July 2, 1918. On March 11, 1919 they had a son, named Mercer Kennedy Ellington. His band continued to gain more recognition and in latter years would become a regular at such places as the Howard Theatre, where he would many connections, including meeting Juan Tizol, a Puerto Rican trombonist who would later join Ellington in his orchestra. By the early 1920s, Duke and his band were playing a wide array of engagements, for a wide array of crowds. This would prepare him for later years and future performances.
-Page 3- Duke's career began to really grow and expand after his friend, William Greer, after being asked to join vaudeville bandleader Wilbur Sweatman in February 1923 in New York as a new drummer, accepted the position on the premise that Sweatman also hired Otto Hardwick and Ellington. After some thought, Duke decided to accept the job, especially since he wanted to take his art form to a new level. It was there that Duke became "a key figure of the cultural awakening of Harlem" (Hasse 64). After Sweatman and his band decided to go off on tour, Duke decided to remain in New York and attempt to create a niche for himself. Unfortunately, at this time Duke was not able to be the success he wanted to be, and therefore decided to head back to Washington D.C. in order to rethink his position. Following this initial rough period, Ellington was able to struggle through and increase his popularity, as well as build his band, which would go on to include some of the greatest talents in jazz. Ellington's career as a bandleader lasted more than fifty years; during at least forty-five of which he was a public figure of some prominence. In the late 1920s, Duke attained the security and prestige of a residency at the Cotton Club, where the best black entertainers of the day worked for gangsters and performed for all-white audiences. Duke survived those years with his dignity intact, which was no small achievement, considering the stigmas attached to what he was doing. Duke also learned from his musicians, some of whom were then more skilled than he. By the end of the twenties, he had begun to experiment and develop as a composer and arranger, and he had several hits under his belt. Among those popular successes were some of his earliest masterpieces. In the early thirties, he sharpened his skills, and made his first attempts at composing longer works. Reworkings of his earliest successes, recorded in the middle of the decade, show the progress he had made. By the late thirties, he had assembled the best collection of players he ever had under his command at one time. One of the best times of Duke dates roughly from 1938 to 1942. This span covers the brief tenure in the band of Jimmy Blanton, the young virtuoso of the string bass, as well as the residency of Ben Webster, Duke's first tenor saxophonist, who joined the ranks of musicians such as Johnny Hodges, Harry Carney, and Barney Bigard. The trumpet section had Rex Stewart and Cootie Williams (replaced by Ray Nance in 1940). The trombones were Joe Nanton, Juan Tizol, and Lawrence Brown, and Sonny Greer on drums. The piano player, of course, was Duke himself. By 1943, Duke had begun a series of annual concerts at Carnegie Hall, as well as the regular production of extended, concert-length works, beginning with Black, Brown and Beige. Billy Strayhorn, a brilliant young arranger who had joined the band in 1939, became increasingly important as Duke's principle collaborator in composition. Skin Deep, a 1952 album track featuring extended drum solos by Louis Bellson, became a favorite demonstration record of early Hi- Fi aficionados. Certain older numbers, notably Rockin' in Rhythm, were accelerated to breakneck tempos, barely recognizable. And then there was the 1956 Newport Jazz Festival, signaling Johnny Hodges's triumphant return, and Paul Gonsalves's 28-chorus solo on Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. Along with Duke's on the cover of Time magazine, later that year, Newport '56 signaled the return of Duke Ellington as a musical force to be reckoned with. Duke Ellington Orchestra Discography ------------------------------------ Title Recording Date Recording Company Location Black And Tan Fantasy 10-26-1927 New York, New York Victor Black And Tan Fantasy (B) 11-3-1927 New York, New York Okeh Black And Tan Fantasy (C) 11-3-1927 New York, New York Okeh Black Beauty 3-26-1928 New York, New York Victor Blue Bubbles (1) 12-19-1927 New York, New York Victor Blue Bubbles (2) 12-19-1927 New York, New York Victor Chicago Stomp Down 11-3-1927 New York, New York Okeh Creole Love Call 10-26-1927 New York, New York Victor Diga Diga Doo 7-10-1928 New York, New York Okeh Doing The New Low-Down 7-10-1928 New York, New York Okeh East St. Louis Toodle-Oo 12-19-1927 New York, New York Victor Got Everything But You 3-26-1928 New York, New York Victor Harlem River Quiver (Brown Berries) 12-19-1927 New York, New York Victor Harlem River Quiver (Brown Berries) (2) 12-19-1927 New York, New York French RCA LP Harlem River Quiver (3) 12-19-1927 New York, New York RCA Label X Harlem Twist (East St. Louis Toodle-Oo) 1-19-1928 New York, New York Okeh Hitting The Bottle (1) 10-2-1930 New York, New York Victor Hitting The Bottle (2) 10-2-1930 New York, New York Victor Hot And Bothered 10-1-1928 New York, New York Okeh Jubilee Stomp 1-19-1928 New York, New York Okeh Jubilee Stomp 3-26-1928 New York, New York Victor Memories Of You 10-2-1930 New York, New York Victor Move Over 10-1-1928 New York, New York Okeh Old Man Blues 8-20-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Old Man Blues (A) 8-20-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Old Man Blues 8-26-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Ring Dem Bells 8-20-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Ring Dem Bells (A) 8-20-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Ring Dem Bells 8-26-1930 Hollywood, California Victor Take It Easy 1-19-1928 New York, New York Okeh That Lindy Hop 10-2-1930 New York, New York Victor The Blues I Love To Sing (1) 10-26-1927 New York, New York Victor The Mooche 10-1-1928 New York, New York Okeh The Blues I Love To Sing (2) 10-26-1927 New York, New York Three Little Words 8-26-1930 Hollywood, California Victor What Can A Poor Fellow Do? 11-3-1927 New York, New York Okeh Washington Wobble (1) 10-6-1927 New York, New York French RCA LP Washington Wobble (2) 10-6-1927 New York, New York RCA Label X Washington Wobble 10-26-1927 New York, New York Victor You're Lucky To Me 10-2-1930 New York, New York Victor "The Jungle Band" (aka Duke Ellington Orchestra) Discography ------------------------------------------------------------ Accordion Joe (A) 4-22-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Accordion Joe (B) 4-22-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Admiration 3-20-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Black And Blue 7-29-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Cincinnati Daddy 12-10-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Cotton Club Stomp (A) 4-22-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Cotton Club Stomp (B) 4-22-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Double Check Stomp 4-22-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Harlem Flat Blues 3-1-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Home Again Blues 10-27-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Jazz Convulsions 9-13-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Jolly Wog 9-13-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Jungle Jamboree 7-29-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Maori (Foxtrot) 2-21-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Maori (Rhumba) (A) 3-20-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Maori (Rhumba) (B) 3-20-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Mood Indigo (Dreamy Blues) 10-17-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Paducah 3-1-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Rent Party Blues 3-1-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Rockin' Chair 1-14-1931 New York, New York Brunswick Rockin' In Rhythm 1-14-1931 New York, New York Brunswick Runnin' Wild 10-17-1930 New York, New York Brunswick Sweet Mama 12-10-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Twelfth Street Rag 1-14-1931 New York, New York Brunswick Wall Street Wail (A) 12-10-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Wall Street Wail (B) 12-10-1929 New York, New York Brunswick Wang Wang Blues 10-27-1930 New York, New York Brunswick When You're Smiling (A) 3-20-1930 New York, New York Brunswick When You're Smiling (B) 3-20-1930 New York, New York Brunswick
Danae Johnson Music 074 - Introduction to Jazz Professor Paul Jeffrey Spring 1998 "Music is everything. Music is the oldest entity....The scope of music is immense and infinite....Without music I may feel blind, atrophied, incomplete, inexistent." -Duke Ellington Information for this paper were taken from the following sources: Hasse, John Edward. "Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington." New York: Da Capo P, 1995. "Duke Ellington and His Orchestra: Discography." http://www.technoir.net/jazz/dukeo.html "The Jungle Band: Discography." http://www.technoir.net/jazz/jungle.html